“DYNAMO”— It’s All About Money


“DYNAMO”

It’s All About Money

Amos Lassen

Donnie Yen Chi-tan’s “Dynamo” is vehicle for Bruce Li. Li plays Hong Kong cab driver Lee Tien-yee, whose martial talents and pronounced resemblance to the late Bruce Lee make him a natural for the. His bosses hires a lazy, alcoholic kung fu instructor (Ku Feng) to train Li, and the two get off to the sort of rocky start. Lee’s abilities increase substantially, of course, and his popularity becomes a threat to rival ad agencies. His mentor decides to try and have Lee bumped off, first during a practice bout and, later, at various stops during a whirlwind promotional tour. He holds these opponents back without much difficulty but, when his girlfriend is kidnapped, Lee is ordered to take a dive during a prestigious martial arts tournament in Chicago.

“Dynamo” has little besides solid fights and that reflexive premise (a Bruce Lee imitator starring in a story about the travails of a Bruce Lee imitator) to recommend it. Also, someone decided after the fact that the movie was either too short or needed more action, so two fights from another film have been cut in. Trouble is, that film stars Danny Lee, who only bears a slight resemblance to Bruce Lee and Bruce Li! Yuen Woo-ping, Yuen Yat-chor, and Yuen Shun-yee all appear briefly, as do Peter Chan Lung, Lee Hoi-sang, and Donald Kong To.

In the first scene, a crass, cutthroat businesswoman passes Bruce Lee’s funeral (stock footage) giving the idea to exploit grief and fandom raise her advertising firm’s stock. So she hires Bruce Li, Instead of fighting for pride, Li brawls for profits and this summarizes the film’s entire reason for being.

The film’s crude quality doesn’t stem from the way it uses death to shamelessly exploit Lee’s legacy – plenty of others in this brief sub-genre did the same. Instead, the world of “Dynamo” is sleazy. Opening credits show a naked woman dancing on stage. Executives aggressively gamble on horse racing. Women sleep with men to further their own careers and hurt their competition. Mobsters work clean-up, either attacking Li as his fame grows, or kidnapping his girlfriend when the dollars reach their bank accounts.

Everything in “Dynamo” is about money. Li fights because he’s paid better compared to driving a taxi. His trainer takes six figures too. Women fawn over men as told (and paid to do). At the end, Li’s willing to throw a fight as his rivals look to profit.

A lot of what we see is Hong Kong finding its way in the ‘70s especially the conformity to western living. Advertising and commercialization are at the center. In using Li for his look-a-like qualities, “Dynamo” comments on Hollywood’s own shrewdness and lack of moral control. The film is

Sloppy and ridiculous. However, it isn’t a total throwaway. Li’s athleticism can’t be questioned. Were it not for his unfortunate, typecast mirror-image face, or if Bruce Lee didn’t exist, maybe he would have had a shot. The fights are often fun to watch including one at a ski resort with combatants in full winter gear, and rather than swords, they strike each other with ski poles. Energy is high and there is plenty of action. Choreography is excellent throughout  and all in all, it is awkward fun with the minimum quality to be entertaining.

The film was released some42 years and restoration reaches a limit, and a poorly preserved theatrical stock is that point. The color is pale and the damage to the print is obvious.