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Birth of the Dragon | 2017 | PG-13 | - 1.5.3

Set in San Francisco in 1964, Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) looks for fame as a martial arts instructor and action star. He meets a famous Shaolin monk (Xia Wu) and fights him in a controversial no-rules match that is still debated today. Also with Billy Magnussen, Jin Xing, Jingjing Qu, Simon Yin and Terry Chen. Directed by George Nolfi. Several lines of dialogue are spoken in Mandarin with and without English subtitles. [1:43]

SEX/NUDITY 1 - A woman wears long gowns with V-necklines that reveal cleavage. A woman wears a high necked long dress that has a slit up one leg to the hip, briefly exposing a strip of her leg from ankle to hip. A man wears running trousers and is shirtless in several scenes. During a fight scene a man rips open his shirt to show three scratches on his abdomen (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details).


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - In a scene and a flashback a leading Shaolin fighter spars with a Tai Chi fighter in China; most strikes miss, but the second man grabs the first man's foot sending him to the ground and when he gets back up he kicks the other man hard in the chest and the screen goes black as the victim falls (we hear that the Tai Chi fighter was nearly killed, and injured so badly that he could never do martial arts again).
 In a long fight scene two men confront several other men: one man charges through a door toward the camera, breaking the door and a table while one man fights three others using kicks, punches, and two long wooden spoons, the other man stands in one spot and reaches out to punch a man, kick a man to the floor, and choke another man (several victims yell loudly when kicked, and then pass out); a man with spiked metal knuckle covers strikes a man several times and the man rips open his shirt to show three scratches and he touches them, tastes his fingers and continues the fight, knocking the man down a flight of stairs, kicking him in the groin to cause loud shouts of pain, and kicking him in the buttocks with a loud yell; a man swings a pool cue at another man who chops it in two with one hand, a man jumps 20 feet off a balcony and lands on his feet safely, and two men wave swords and axes at two other men who throw them down the stairs; a man lying on the floor gets up and points a handgun and another man hits him over the head with a beer bottle breaking the bottle and causing the gunman to fall unconscious.
 Several men with ball bats break equipment in a laundry and rough up a woman, finally throwing her to the floor (no injuries are seen), until her adult son enters and fights the men with kicking and punching and he levels them, but their boss beats him to the floor and the screen goes black (we see the man in a hospital bed with a large neck brace and a bruised face as we hear a machine beeping, but cannot see it). A man walking in a dark alley is cut off by a large black car, out of which five men exit; they demand money owed to them and the first man tries to fight them off when another man enters the alley, interrupts the fight and beats up four men with kicks, punches, and chokes, leaving them lying on the pavement. While filming a movie, a man fights six other men twice, yells and uses punches, strikes, kicks to the groin, chokes, and throws, until all the men lie on the ground; the first man swings a crowbar to a point off-screen and the scene goes black (an injury to a victim is implied). A man charges into the kitchen of a restaurant, punches a man in the face, and is tossed out the door onto the pavement; he crawls away on his belly and grunts.
 In an extended scene two men with punches, straight and twirling kicks, jump kicks, summersaults, choke holds, and a head-butt with several attacks missing their targets, one man kicks the other man in the legs several times, a fist moves forward and leaves a bleeding scratch on the opponent's forehead in slow-motion, another punch connects with a face and saliva sprays, one man kicks the top of the other man's head, and one man misses his target and hits a pillar; one man says he will not stop fighting until he wins or the other man kills him, one man punches the other man in the side making him fall with a scream (no sound), the men fight up a staircase about 40 feet above a cement floor and jump one at a time back to the floor (they land safely on their feet), one man places the other man in a head lock and draws back a fist to deliver a death punch to his head (he does not hit him), a flurry of fast punches, open handed attacks, throws, and spinning kicks make slapping sounds as they connect and the two men stop and bow. A man charges toward a Shaolin monk who crosses his arms and dodges a dozen moves, but then knocks the first man away.
 Two judo fighters use throws in a long shot during a demonstration. A Wing Chun master taunts a karate black belt before a demonstration fight where the master embarrasses the other man by using super-fast movements, and knocks him to the floor with a short punch; the angered man strikes and misses several times, grunts, roars, and charges, only to lose the match when a punch comes just short of his nose and stops. A few scenes feature a man striking a many-armed wooden martial arts practice dummy. A man practices Shaolin movements on a river bank.
 A man with a rifle points it at another man, who says he remembers breaking the first man's leg when they were 16 and the second man knocks out the first man with a jumping kick. A woman bats a baseball into a man's stomach and perhaps his groin, and he doubles over with shouts of pain; the camera cuts to the couple on a park bench, where she performs acupressure to his hand to relieve the body pain.
 A Wing Chun master confronts a Shaolin monk in front of a demonstration audience and after a short argument, the monk leaves and another man runs after him and complains, raising his voice, but the monk refuses to argue. A woman threatens a waitress if she speaks to a man again. A woman is held captive in a restaurant basement and shouts at another woman. Several men argue angrily about the lack of a clear winner of a fight emerging and bets cannot be paid or collected. Two men argue several times. When asked if his father taught him to punch, a man says, "You could say that," implying that he was abused when younger. A man says that his mother died recently, but does not state how.
 A man is shown in a hospital bed and he grimaces and holds his side (we do not see any machines or IV lines). We see a man with his hands soaking in a big bowl of ice after a fight.
 A man scolds another man and slaps him on the shoulder and in another scene, on the upper chest. A woman slaps her adult son's shoulder, scolding him. A woman slaps two large men on the arms with a newspaper. Two dozen men in a martial arts class punch and simultaneously shout, "Kick [anatomical term deleted]" ten times. A man briefly swings a set of nunchucks.
 A man eats what he calls dried sea worms from sticks; they look like candy.


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LANGUAGE 3 - 1 scatological term, 20 anatomical terms, 4 mild obscenities, name-calling (barbarian, disgusting, tree stumps, navel gazing, chop-socky, schmuck, Bi-Nu [Chinese insult]), exclamations (heck), 3 silent Buddhist prayers with incense and a man prays on prayer beads.


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SUBSTANCE USE - We see a bar in a few scenes with three bottles of foil wrapped liquor at one end (no one is drinking). A man smokes a cigarette on a sidewalk and another man smokes one in an alley.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Popularity of Kung Fu in 1970s America, traditional vs. modern martial arts, anger, fighting, gambling problems, prostitution, bigotry, the Tong, danger, severe injury, penance, bravado, challenges, courage, self-mastery, discipline, humble spirit, peace, respect, freedom, justice.

MESSAGE - When you find something you are willing to die for, fight to protect it.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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