Bullet Points: Dynamo
It is not often when the title of a movie can be used to describe the star of said movie. But that was the case with 1978’s Dynamo starring Bruce Li.
Of all the Bruce Lee clones, Bruce Li was the most well rounded performer and given the chance I believe he could have been much more than a clone of Bruce Lee. Dynamo has been said to be one of the films that Bruce Li was most proud of and I can’t help but wonder if it is because the plot of the film mirrored his actual life in many ways…
- Ruthless Aggression: The movie begins like some sort of Hong Kong version of Mad Men, with shrewd businesswoman Miss Mary landing in Hong Kong and looking to take care of business at the Pacific Advertising Agency. On the way from the airport to the Pacific office, Mary notices huge crowds assembling. We learn that the people are gathering for the funeral of Bruce Lee. Once Mary arrives at the office, she takes over the entire Hong Kong operation and begins her plans to take out the rival Cosmo Group and once again make the Pacific Agency the top of the heap in Hong Kong.
- He’s No Judd Hirsch: Bruce Li plays Lee Ting Yi. Lee studies the martial arts and is the top of his class, but to pay his bills he is a cab driver. One day a call comes over the radio about some toughs that have stolen a cab, Lee springs into action and chases after the thieves, catching up with them and beating the tar out of them. As luck would have it, Miss Mary was stuck in traffic at this very moment and witnessed the whole thing and the wheels start turning in her head. She has her man Friday track down the young cab driver and a star is about to be born.
- The Next Bruce Lee: Miss Mary makes Lee Ting Yi an offer he can’t refuse. Miss Mary believes with Lee Ting Yi’s resemblance to Bruce Lee and his martial arts abilities he can fill the huge void left by the death of the greatest martial artist to ever live and in the process become a star of epic proportions who can then be used to endorse products for the clients of the Pacific Agency. Miss Mary gives Lee a whole new wardrobe, a $10,000 a month salary (not including bonuses), Lee gets to attend all the major social events in Hong Kong. Miss Mary even hires Teacher Cheung, a proven trainer of champions, to give Lee some next level martial arts skills. Cheung was played by Hong Kong movie veteran Ku Feng, who also starred with Bruce Li in Bruce Against Iron Hand.
- Tour De Force: Lee Ting Yi goes on a promotional tour for the Pacific Agency but at every stop he finds trouble thanks to the rival Cosmo Group. This is the point in the film where the action really picks up. We see Lee fight it out in a dojo in Japan, on the ski slopes in Seoul, Korea and he even gets into a fight to the death in his hotel room while visiting the United States. Does the Cosmo Group give up after being thwarted by Lee every time? Hell no, they just play even dirtier. The Cosmo goons kidnap Lee Ting Yi’s girlfriend and threaten to kill her if Lee does not take a dive in a big fight taking place in Chicago.
- The Big Fight: To establish how big this big fight in Chicago is, stock footage is utilized of rabid Chicago Bears fans entering Soldier Field Then we get an interior stock footage shot of a ring, center stage at Madison Square Garden. Once the fight begins we get some stock footage shots of a crowd watching a sporting event that I’m pretty sure was not at either Soldier Field or Madison Square Garden. The referee for the fight has a white shirt and shorts on and a whistle around his neck for some reason. He also slaps the mat like a wrestling referee when he’s counting a fighter down like a boxing referee. And the match ended after an 8 count!??! Despite all the nonsense surrounding the fight, any time you can see Bruce Li get physical is a good time in my book as Li’s Lee Ting Yi found himself embroiled in a real David vs. Goliath type battle.
After watching Dynamo I can say Bruce Li has good taste where his own movies are concerned. The true to life nature of our hero being pushed as the next Bruce Lee provided realism to the story. The warring ad agencies was an interesting element and in a way put big business ethics on blast. (Take that Madison Avenue fat cats!) To put it simply, Dynamo was dynamite!
I think a dynamite way to wrap up this review would be with some Bonus Bullet Points…
- The Clone Who Loved Me: Not only do the opening credits of Dynamo have a very James Bond like feel, later in the movie the song “Nobody Does It Better” is used. “Nobody Does It Better” was the theme song for the 1977 Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me starring Roger Moore.
- One Question: The cab company that Lee Ting Yi works for is called Blue Taxi… so why are all their cabs red?
- Yoda’s Favorite Quote: “Hey, no tries. You do it!”
- Job Description: Miss Mary describes her role with the Pacific Advertising Agency as sort of a laxative because she’s there “to get rid of the old crap”.
- Disco Baby: When the cunning Miss Mary hatches her plan to entrap an executive from the rival Cosmo Group at a swinging Hong Kong discothèque, a song is playing titled “Disco Baby”. Unlike a lot of the music used in the Bruceploitation Era films, “Disco Baby” appears to be an original piece of music, yet it still manages to feel like a conglomeration of every popular disco song of the day.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see Bruce Li fight a guy wearing a tossle cap, then this is the movie for you.