Portly pig farmer Ah Lung (Sammo Hung) dreams of being just like his idol Bruce Lee and practices jeet kun do on his screeching sows. Arriving in Hong Kong, Lung wastes no time in helping Uncle Hung (Fung Fung) at his noodle stand, by beating up a bunch of rowdy customers who refuse to pay their bills. After kicking their asses, he hands them their change! Sadly, triads working for smuggler Uncle Chiu (Roy Chiao Hung) take revenge by trashing the place, forcing Lung to seek employment at a swanky restaurant. Here he befriends a pair of pretty waitresses, Hsiao-Wei (Ankie Lau Heung-Ping) and Ah Chen (Lee Hoi-Suk), after his flying fists make short work of two groping westerners who have the temerity to declare: “Chinese kung fu is no damn good.”
Unfortunately, Lung’s subsequent attempt to stop the triads from hassling his aspiring artist cousin Kao (Lu Chu-Shek) into forging high-priced artworks, backfire when he wrecks a sports car belonging to the restaurant manager. No matter how skilled at kung fu he may be, this country bumpkin can’t get a handle on big city life.
By the late Seventies Hong Kong cinemagoers had seen such pretenders as Bruce Li, Bruce Lo and Bruce Leung stake their claim to the dragon’s throne, but with Enter the Fat Dragon, his second film as actor-director following Iron-Fisted Monk (1977), Sammo Hung eclipsed them all to emerge one of the industry’s biggest (no pun intended) superstars. Sammo worked several times with the real Bruce Lee as assistant fight choreographer on Fist of Fury (1971), a bit-part player in Enter the Dragon (1973) and as uncredited co-director of the patchwork mess that is Game of Death (1978). He even challenged Bruce to a bout, which he lost good-naturedly but came away mightily impressed. Using his familiarity with the action icon, Sammo nails all of Bruce Lee’s mannerisms, flattening his nose and adopting the same terror-inducing, “what-you-looking at?” glare. More importantly he flawlessly mimics Bruce’s jeet kun do moves.
As a young Peking Opera Student training alongside Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao (here given a bit-part as a triad thug), Sammo was ranked as the school’s greatest fighter. After recuperating from a serious injury, several months worth of comfort eating left him an undeniably stouter fellow but his kung fu training made him the fastest, deadliest and most graceful big guy that ever graced the silver screen. His willingness to poke fun at his weight, combined with his innovative fight choreography - wherein, quite often real punches are thrown and they pay the medical bills later - made Sammo a star.
Whereas other Bruceploitation movies were cynical rip-offs made by quick-buck merchants, Enter the Fat Dragon is sincere in its admiration for the great man. Ah Lung does not seek stardom, but a chance to uphold those virtues embodied by his idol. He underlines this point in his brief job as a stuntman when he teaches an arrogant, discourteous Bruce Lee impersonator (Tony Leung Siu-Hung) a lesson in humility, but gets carried away and wipes out the entire stunt team in a hilarious send-up of Fist of Fury’s famous dojo fight. Sadly, Lung’s idealism does not sit well in cynical, modern Hong Kong. He foils a robbery, but no-one will step forward as a witness. After saving his uncle, the ungrateful old man immediately scolds him for trashing his restaurant. Lung comes good in the end but withdraws from city life, the subtext implying there is no room for Bruce Lee’s righteous fury in Hong Kong anymore, clearing the way for more downtrodden, comical heroes like Sammo and Jackie Chan.
Although the story could have been more substantial, Bruce Lee fans will recognise plot points and sometimes whole scenes lifted from The Big Boss (1971) and Way of the Dragon (1972), but taken in their own zany direction with much of the humour derived from Lung’s naïve country ways. After an episodic two-thirds, things finally come into focus when Uncle Chiu arranges the kidnap of Ah Chen, in a bid to persuade lustful, monocle-wearing billionaire Professor Pai (Peter Yang Kwan) to smuggle forged antiques into America. This leads to an inspired slapstick chase sequence where Kao drives off to the rescue without realising Ah Lung hasn’t quite squeezed into the taxi cab. The fat dragon stumbles exhausted along the motorway, while clueless Kao yammers away, then finally slips into the car as it reaches their destination.
The finale boils down to a warehouse fight where Ah Lung takes on Prof. Pai’s three sneering bodyguards in classic Bruce Lee style. They include an American boxer (David Nick), regular co-star Leung Kar-Yan as a lethal classical kung fu expert, and a Jim Kelly look-alike played by veteran heavy Lee Hoi-Sang - outrageously garbed in an afro and brown face paint, and dubbed with an African-American bass! It’s borderline offensive, but wickedly funny just the same. Equally amusing are Ah Lung’s attempts to persuade each man to wait his turn, while Sammo adds a dash of humanity by showing how bloody exhausting it is to fight three bad guys at once.
Hong Kong born actor, producer and director and one of the best known figures in Hong Kong cinema. Hung's large frame belies a formidable martial arts ability, and he's best known for his collaborations with Jackie Chan during the 1980s and more recently for his US TV show Martial Law.