The tasteless and embarrassing 'Brucesploitation' genre existed solely to cash in on the legacy of deceased action legend Bruce Lee. Usually the films would try and take advantage of his name and status, but 1980s Challenge of the Tiger is an interesting case. It's an otherwise original and normal (well, 'normal') picture...It just so happens to star the illustrious Bruce Le...
A pair of scientists have just perfected a spermicide formula that is 100% effective. Keen to use it for wholly benevolent motives, they are suddenly gunned down by terrorists, who steal the formula to hold the world at ransom. On the case are CIA agents Bruce and Richard, specialists in their fields and a nightmare for the enemy. Together they battle thugs, outsmart femme fatales, and punch their way to the heart of this deadly conspiracy...
Challenge of the Tiger is an intercontinental production, between Hong Kong, America, and Italy. The man behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera was Bruce Le. He stars, co-wrote, produces, and directs. The result is fairly run-of-the-mill, but also entertaining is its own unique way.
There were some times where I thought "If this is an example of Bruce Le's writing, then I think he'd better stick to martial arts!", but as silly and occasionally nonsensical as the action is, it's satisfying, in a so-bad-it's-good way. The endless double crossings and double agents does confuse more than it needs to. Tell you what confused me most though, is the identity of one group of villains-The Vietcong! Outside of Vietnam?? In 1980???
We're given good introductions to our heroes, especially Richard! The lucky bastard lives on a palatial estate, with dozens of big-breasted naked women, who like getting wet in the pool, and playing lots of topless tennis. It's what many men picture as Heaven! Bruce's introduction is more standard, though he ends up getting more to do in the film overall.
They're fairly average heroes, though it can be a little hard to like them when they keep getting people killed! In one scene during the bullfight, Bruce throws the hat with the formula up to Richard. He misses and someone else catches it, then is immediately shot dead. Oops! Their worst moment is how well their rescue goes. Halfway though they acquire a female ally-A fellow agent. She's a good help, until she's captured by the enemy. The heroes mount up to save her, leading to the climax!...Buuut she dies before it starts (thanks to some real dedication on her part, Jesus!), and is then completely forgotten.
While Bruce headlines the majority of the action, Richard is pretty useless in a fight, and the movie borders on playing it as a joke. If he has a gun in his hand he does ok, but with hand to hand he gets his ass kicked until Bruce shows up. He doesn't even lift a finger in the final fights!
There are several factions of bad guys here. Who or what they are is confusing, among other things. They're ok, but are the incredibly stupid kind of villains who kill their own members for either the slightest failure, or for simply knowing too much. Hey assholes, if the bloody CIA know you're after the formula, what does it matter if your own people do too?
The acting is pretty shoddy. The cast are rushed, and race through their lines. The result is amusingly bad, made even better by how poorly written the dialogue is, like when characters will ask questions, then answer themselves. The supporting cast includes a few familiar faces like Jon T. Benn and Bolo Yeung, as well as bodybuilder Brad Harris in a fun villainous role. There is also an adorable dog! And a nice looking bull too, in the shots where it's not replaced by a fake stand-in.
Bruce Le is an alright lead. Nothing special, but he gets the job done, and for a chopsocky film we're really not asking for an Oscar Winner. We're not even asking for an especially talented martial artist, as long as the movie's just mindless cheesy fun.
Richard Harrison's career was an eclectic one. It started out strong, with reasonably A-list productions, or at least B-list. But his trajectory took a few vast dips into Z-grade territory, no lower than the IFD productions. He may not have looked fondly on all of them (one can presume this was an exception!), but at least he got a new following from it, whether he liked it it not.
The fighting here is silly, and often laughable.People die from simply a few punches, and writhe about unconvincingly. But they are always entertaining to watch. Bruce Le is a decent fighter. I mean, he's no Bruce Lee (...hehe), but he does alright, especially for what the film is. Another key thing is these fights are choreographed in a fun way.
Challenge of the Tiger is a ridiculous little chopsocky film, and plenty of fun. It's got enough cheesy action and nudity to keep any fan of the genre entertained, and while there's plenty wrong with it, it's never boring...
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