Review: Enter the Clones of Bruce


Anyone even remotely interested in Hong Kong cinema will know the name of Bruce Lee. Hell, people outside of that niche will likely have heard of him. Despite having passed away more than 50 years ago, Bruce Lee is still the most popular and influential Asian action star of all time. His impact on cinema is immeasurable and his legacy has been firmly cemented in the pantheons of history for generations to come.

What some people will not know, unless they were readers of this site, is that Bruce Lee’s unfortunate death left a gigantic void in its wake. With audiences hungry for more Lee and studios looking to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible, something needed to be done. That something is maybe not the most ethical decision ever, but it’s what we got: Bruce Lee imitation films.

Enter the Clones of Bruce covers the phenomenon known as “Brucesploitation” and gives it a reverence I would have never expected. Despite how cheesy and greedy banking off of Lee’s image was, there were real people behind these movies who were doing their best to provide entertainment for audiences. Strangely, though, the film tends to sideline those people in favor of explaining just what the widely publicized sensation was.

Enter the Clones of Bruce (2023) - Official Trailer | VMI Worldwide

Enter the Clones of Bruce
Director: David Gregory
Release Date: June 10, 2023 (Tribeca), April 12, 2024 (US)
Rating: NR

I must preface this review by explaining that my understanding of this documentary was that it would be taking a look at the actors who portrayed different clones of Bruce Lee. From the title, the movie is calling back to the 1980 Brucesploitation movie The Clones of Bruce Lee and I figured this picture would be delving into what the actors have been doing in the wake of their “stolen” fame. We do get some of that here, but the movie is really a look at the particular marvel that was Brucesploitation instead of anything else.

The movie starts rather abruptly by recapping the events of Bruce Lee’s illustrious career. There are brief clips shown from his childhood acting days in Hong Kong before he went to America as a teen. We see interviews Bruce had with studios and even get screens of pictures he did for screen tests. It’s all stuff that Lee megafans will have already witnessed, but it does catch unaware audiences up to speed. Then the movie shifts into focus once history catches up to Lee’s untimely death.

Enter the Clones of Bruce does a pretty solid job of explaining what Brucesploitation was, how it came to be, and why it was such a force to be reckoned with. Through clips, interviews with key members of the Hong Kong film industry, and anecdotes from pundits and critics, the film paints a picture of just how immense Lee’s presence was even after he was gone.

Enter the Clones of Bruce

© Severin Films

For me, I knew a lot of this already, but what cemented Enter the Clones of Bruce as necessary viewing was modern-day interviews with specific Hong Kong actors. David Chiang (New One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance, The Heroic Ones) has never really left the public eye since starting at Shaw Brothers, but his presence is welcomed. What is truly stunning is that we get to see actors Lo Meng (The Five Venoms), the late Roy Horan (Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow), and even Casanova Wong (The Shaolin Plot, Warriors Two) talk about their involvement in Brucesploitation work. These actors have rarely been captured on camera reflecting on anything they did in the past.

Obviously, there are also discussions with several of the clones of Lee, including Bruce Li (Bruce Lee: A Dragon Story), Dragon Lee (The Real Bruce Lee), and Bruce Le (Return of Bruce) as well as Yasuaki Kurata who was initially billed as Bruce Lo. That last one is something I never realized as I was born far too late to even have an interest in these types of films.

I think that is the best quality about Enter the Clones of Bruce. As I mentioned in the intro, there is a reverence given to his rather sleazy subgenre that I didn’t anticipate. Everyone involved admits it was a bad idea, but the audience demand was too strong. Studios were going to capitalize on Lee’s image regardless, so why not make some money and films out of it? At least when it comes to the specific imitators, they all attempted to do justice to Lee.

© Severin Films

In one of the better quotes from the movie, Bruce Li admits that he hated being labeled a clone. While his life was changed forever thanks to being spotted as a Lee lookalike, he did try to differentiate himself from the pack. Dragon Lee, as well, wasn’t particularly happy about his role in the Brucesploitation craze, but his life was changed forever. That kind of reflection is the stuff I was hoping would permeate throughout the proceedings, though I suppose you can’t create fiction out of real life. Possibly the best quote is when Bruce Le states, “You can call me whatever you want, as long as you pay me.”

As well as direct Bruce Lee imitators, Enter the Clones of Bruce also takes a quick look at how Lee’s image infiltrated other cultures. As should be known to most people, Black culture in America took a tremendous liking to Kung Fu cinema which was bolstered by Jim Kelly’s appearance in Enter the Dragon. Kelly was labeled as a mixture of James Bond with Bruce Lee and legendary actor Ron Van Clief was even dubbed “The Black Dragon” by Lee himself.

That doesn’t even account for how Angela Mao was scouted by Lee, worked with him on Enter the Dragon, and was later billed as “The Female Bruce Lee.” There are films outside of the specific Brucesploitation subgenre that can still be considered Lee clones and I hadn’t even thought of that. That is the kind of enlightenment I appreciate.

© Severin Films

So whatever way you cut it, Enter the Clones of Bruce is a solid film that does justice to its subject. I do wish that we had gotten more in-depth interviews with the specific actors or even followed what their lives were like in the immediate aftermath of their involvement in the Hong Kong film industry, but that might be beyond the scope of this project. Not everyone is well versed in foreign media and despite how gigantic Lee remains to this day, these clones have become a relic of the past.

As a fan of Hong Kong cinema and Bruce Lee, I was entertained and informed about things I wasn’t strictly aware of. It was also fantastic to see people directly involved with Hong Kong movies being given a spotlight instead of just historians or fans. Some inclusions are questionable (Eric Tsang and Mike Leeder, to name a few), but otherwise, this is a documentary that will make 94 minutes fly by. It’s certainly worth a watch even for those outside of the fandom that surrounds Bruce Lee.




Enter the Clones of Bruce takes a look at the phenomenon known as "Brucesploitation" with a reverence you wouldn't expect.

Peter Glagowski
Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can't find him in front of a game, you'll most likely find him pumping iron.