WARRIOR ON CINEMAX: BRUCE LEE WOULD BE WATCHING
At the beginning of 2019, I started to hear the buzz about a new T.V series based on the writings of Bruce Lee. A follower and historian of all things Lee I quickly learned that his daughter Shannon Lee was heavily involved in the development of the project and I jumped on side right away. The show is called “Warrior”, was done by screenwriter Jonathon Tropper and can be seen on Friday nights at 10pm on Cinemax.
Now in late May, In the shine and beauty of spring, this dark show is now eight episodes in and starting to grip my full attention. It hasn’t taken long for the characters to develop and the plot to thicken, and you know I always come at things with the fighter’s eye.
Here is “Warrior”, the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY;
You know when you are dealing with Shannon Lee and her father’s legacy that the intent is always going to come from the right place and Warrior starts there with the plot. The lead character Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) literally steps off the boat as a Chinese immigrant to San Francisco in in late 1870’s. The streets are filthy with seedy, corrupt, racism and Ah Sahm is there to find his sister who fled hardship to America years before him. The plot and the potential for a hero character is set, and the production, wardrobe and dialogue are all very enjoyable in this dark, dark setting. Ah Sahm’s exceptional martial arts abilities get him in a mess almost immediately and he is in deep with the Hop Wei Tong before you know it.
The core of the streets are in downtown San Fran and the era spit in the middle of the Tong Wars. Aside from Ah Sahm, the characters are a strong cast of actors led by Mai Ling (Dianne Doan), the wife of Long Zii the leader of the Long Zii Tong. She is a beautiful dragon who cannot be trusted. She is also Ah Sahm’s sister. Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) is the Madame in charge of the Hop Wei brothel. She is as deadly with a hair pin as she is gorgeous, and she quickly takes Ah Sahm under her wing. Young Jun (Jason Tobin) is a fascinating actor to watch and he can carve his way through any maze of men with his knife. One of the most intriguing characters in the show is Wang Chao, an underground arms dealer who seems to be in the middle of everything in Chinatown. He is played by one of my favorite actors Hoon Lee.
THE FIGHT SCENES
So far, the fights have been very Bruce Lee in the way that they have been choreographed and pieced together. The fighting is very JKD and direct, with Ah Sahm’s hands speed and strength coming across nicely. You can tell all the characters are very highly skilled and are very serious about how they want to look in battle. There has been a nice mix of one on one and gang battles, and the fighting skills of Li Yong (Joe Taslim) the top enforcer of the Long Zii and Ah Sahm, are exceptional.
One of the worst things about the show really doesn’t have much to do with the show itself but how and when fans can watch it up here in Canada. Cinemax is available through Crave T.V. in affiliation with HBO in Canada and you have to be a subscriber to be able to watch it. I support Bruce Lee and his legacy and have interest in all things associated with him, but I’m not sure of the numbers for the show on Crave.
It took a little while for the plot ties and characters to get into some conflicts and I also felt Episode 5 was a bit of a puzzling episode in the mix of things. I hope it keeps a nice mix of action fighting with a purpose in there in order to keep the pace of the show at a fairly fast level. There is some room for love story and character development amid all the sweet chaos.
DARK TIMES DARK SCREEN
The show is portraying an extremely dark and gritty time in the history of America so it can’t be sunshine and rainbows dancing across the screen while the Tongs carve each others throats out. However, the darkness comes across the screen literally sometimes and I can’t see what the fuck is going on. Especially during some of the fight scenes.
VIOLENCE and LANGUAGE
In an ode to a much more primitive and politically incorrect time in the world of 1870 the unbelievable violence that is portrayed in this show in often shocking and hard to handle. Blood and gore are prevalent but it isn’t always meaningless and frivolous. There is just a lot of it and that can sometimes saturate the screen. It is the only thing I think Bruce would look at and go wow, “Is this necessary?” Chinatown top cop Billy (Kieran Brew) bashes a man’s skull in long before he finishes bashing, and the way Young Jun stabs and slices and kills with a smile is gut wrenching at times.
The use of racial slurs and foul language is obvious from the get go. It harkens back to a nasty time before racial and political correctness was even a thought in daily city life. Immigration was a hot fire issue then as it is now yet it was a much newer phenomenon then, and people didn’t mix words or opinion on what they thought of the people coming in off the boats from China or the women inside the brothels. It’s tough on the 2019 ear.
In famous Hollywood folklore fashion, the story had always been that while starting his time and networking in Hollywood, Bruce Lee had an idea about a martial arts, western style show, that would unveil the essence of the Chinese culture to a western television audience. For many reasons, economical and political, the show was never made. A 1980’s show called “Kung Fu”, starring David Carradine hit the air and was said to be virtually ripped off from Bruce’s original idea.
Shannon Lee is the holder of his writings and this show was created based on those story writings. Eight episodes in and the series is just getting juicy. Between the sharp fight choreography, the Chinatown production scenes and the strong, unpredictable characters, “Warrior” has me glued in on Friday night’s. According to the Twitter accounts of Cinemax and many of the main actors, the 10-episode show has already been renewed for a second season.
I’m pretty sure Bruce Lee would be watching too.
The T.V. Show “Warrior” can be seen on Friday nights at 10pm on Cinemax or Crave T.V. in Canada