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QT Meets Bruce Lee


Rev. of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

By Jake Jacobs

 I know, I know! You are dying to find out the scoop on the Bruce Lee scene in Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood. I have you covered.

The action takes place during a flashback, as Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), erstwhile stuntman, ponders why a certain stunt coordinator won't hire him.  After begging for work (backstory, which you don't need) he gets a chance on a Green Hornet episode.  A bunch of production people are hanging around while Bruce Lee, in costume as Kato, expounds. He says something along the following lines.

Bruce: "Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, and Joe Louis - the black Joe Louis, not that white kickboxing asshole - they are warriors. I respect that."

Voice from the crowd: "How would you do against Cassius Clay, Bruce?"

Bruce: "That would never happen."

Voice: "But if it did?"

Bruce: "He would have no chance."

Cliff: Snickers.

Bruce: "You! I said something funny?"

Cliff: "Yeah, you kind'a did."

Shortening, because why type it all? Lee challenges Cliff to best out of three falls, no blows to the face.

Fall One: Lee does some Bruce Lee schtick, then launches a flying sidekick to the chest. Cliff is impressed, but unfazed. He stands, and says: "Try that again."

Fall Two: Lee, stupidly, tries it again. Cliff sidesteps, grabs him as he goes by, and throws him into the side of a car.  Lee is slightly fazed; the car is very fazed.

Fall Three: Lee feints with a front kick, then the two exchange a series of rapid hand techniques for ten of fifteen seconds, before the stunt coordinator, who hates Cliff, turns up, and breaks it up, and fires Cliff.

Answering the racial critics.  Yes, the only two (I will get to the other) Asians in the movie get the beaten by whites. But both are portrayed as film stars, and there are no slurs aimed at them ethnically.

Answering the Keepers of the Bruce Lee Flame. He is portrayed as haughty. It has been awhile since I have seen a Lee movie, but my recollection is that he usually was haughty in them, though we let it slide because his attitude was directed at bad guys, who he beat up. Perhaps he was a pussycat in real life? This wasn't real life, it was a work of fiction, which most viewers recognize, especially once the climax comes along. So get over it. Besides, he gets two scenes later showing him training Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring.

Answering Martial Arts Fanatics. Falls One and Two seem somewhat plausible.  Fall Three does not.  A real life Cliff might have kept up if he was a trained boxer, but trading wing chun moves with Bruce Lee? I hardly think so.

Answers Movie Fans in general. Yes, the movie was a lot of fun.  It was occasionally self-indulgent. The Bruce Lee bit isn't really needed, and the flashback itself contains an embedded flashback. Then there was Matt Helm. QT is a big fan of The Wrecking Crew, a movie that few would cherish today.  He has Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) pass a theater where it is playing, and go in to see herself on the big screen.  We get multiple clips, as he intercuts with another storyline.  In one, she fights Nancy Kwan, and using a spinning kick to the head Bruce Lee taught her, she drops the Oriental villainess as the audience (within the movie) cheers.

Despite all that, there is a good storyline involving Leo DiCaprio as a TV cowboy star past his prime, and his relationship with Cliff, his stunt double. Both male leads are excellent. Meanwhile, there is another thread involving Rick's (Leo) neighbors on Cielo Drive, Sharon and Roman and friends. Cliff visits the Spahn Ranch, a very creepy sequence. There is a violent climax tying it all together while spinning things into an alternate history.  Meanwhile, the whole thing is packed with sixties trivia, lots of driving in cars while top forty radio plays.

(c) 2019 Jake Jacobs. All rights reserved.

Guest contributor Jake Jacobs is the author of The Battered Butterfly and the screenplay for the Ring of Fire.









Ring of Fire, screen-play by Jake Jacobs





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