Andrew Koji plays Ah Sahm, a master martial artist who comes to San Francisco's Chinatown and gets drawn in the infamous tong wars.
/ Andrew Koji plays Ah Sahm, a master martial artist who concerns San Francisco’s Chinatown and gets attracted the notorious tong wars.

HBO/David Bloomer


There’s juicy political intrigue, prohibited love, and lots of kung-fu combating in Warrior, a brand-new ten-episode series from Cinemax. The series is adjusted from a treatment established by famous kung fu master Bruce Lee almost 50 years earlier, and while it’s been upgraded to match modern tastes and patterns, it still handles to catch the essence of Bruce Lee’s philosophical worldview.

( Moderate spoilers listed below.)

According to Hollywood tradition, Bruce Lee pitched a concept in 1971 for a TELEVISION series about a martial artist in the Old West. Skittish studio heads handed down the job (and on Lee as its star), choosing to make Kung Fu with David Carradine rather. Lee’s child, Shannon Lee, heard these stories, too. When she took control of management of her dad’s tradition in 2000 as president of the Bruce Lee Structure, amongst the archived products was Lee’s initial treatment, in addition to a number of drafts and notes. It remained in storage for a number of years, up until Lee discussed its presence to executive manufacturer Justin Lin( The Quick and the Furious: Tokyo Drift). Lin enjoyed the treatment and believed they might make the series that her dad had actually constantly meant.

When Cinemax green-lit the job, they brought Jonathan Tropper on board as developer and executive manufacturer. Tropper had actually simply covered the last season of Banshee for the cable television channel, and he was a Bruce Lee uber– fan, so he leapt at the opportunity to deal with the job. “I might price estimate every [Bruce Lee] motion picture,” he stated. “So the little young boy in me was very thrilled.” He was shocked to discover that the initial treatment likewise included various illustrations: Bruce Lee had a creative bent and drew numerous characters and combat transfer to enhance his writing. The treatment was sporadic enough that Tropper had flexibility to expand the plot and develop brand-new characters. “All I needed to do was be real to the stability of the styles he wished to check out,” he stated– particularly, the Chinese immigrant experience in 19 th century San Francisco.

With a martial arts prodigy as its lead character, Warrior boasts some excellent battle choreography.

In the pilot episode of Warrior, a young Chinese martial arts prodigy, Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji, Quick and Furious 6: HK Cops), shows up in 19 th-century San Francisco. He left China to discover his sis however quickly discovers himself involved with the Tong Wars, a duration of especially violent conflicts in between competing Chinese gangs, called tongs, in the Chinatowns of a number of American cities. (There were as lots of as 30 tongs in San Francisco alone at the height of the Tong Wars.) Ah Sahm likewise need to compete with increasing anti-immigrant belief versus the Chinese.

Tonally, the series belongs to programs like Peaky Blinders and Boardwalk Empire– all gritty duration dramas fixated criminal pursuits of one kind or another. However with a martial arts prodigy as its lead character, Warrior likewise boasts some excellent battle choreography. And it quite shows a 21 st century perceptiveness in its primarily Asian cast; there’s not a trace of whitewashing in sight. There’s likewise none of the dated, tacky aphorisms that made Kung Fu such a struck with mainstream white audiences in the 1970 s. Rather, Lee’s individual viewpoint is deftly woven into the material of the program.

Ah Sahm's tong brotherhood includes Bolo (Rich Ting, center left) and Young Jun (Jason Tobin, center right).
/ Ah Sahm’s tong brotherhood consists of Bolo (Rich Ting, center left) and Young Jun (Jason Tobin, center right).

HBO/David Bloomer

Lee’s initial treatment followed a common 1970 s episodic format, with a self-contained experience in each. “TELEVISION is not truly made that method any longer, so we certainly needed to upgrade it for how stories are informed on TELEVISION nowadays,” stated Shannon Lee. “However the bones of it are all in the treatment: the time duration, the San Francisco setting, the politics of the time, the truth that [Ah Sahm] is searching for his sis.” The martial arts master did his research on the history of the duration, investigating the Chinese Exemption Act and other information of 19 th century San Francisco. That historic component of the Chinese American experience was likewise a draw for Lin. It’s a crucial duration in United States history, and yet, “Maturing, we’re fortunate to have 2 sentences in a history book,” he stated.

Warrior puts the corrupt politics and simmering racial stress front and center– something that may have been glossed over by Hollywood back in the 1970 s. The Chinese immigrants are “onions.” The white folk are “ducks” who are stunned that Ah Sahm speaks remarkable English, and they still show up their noses at needing to share a stagecoach with “filthy” immigrants. There are opportunists like Wang Chao ( Hoon Lee, Banshee, Iron Fist) who look for to play both sides, intentionally promoting hostility in between the tongs for enjoyable and earnings. To price estimate Video Game of Thrones‘ Littlefinger, “ Mayhem is a ladder“– and Chao and Mai Ling ( Dianne Doan, Vikings), Ah Sahm’s separated sis, wish to climb up that ladder to wealth and power. On top of all that, there is no love lost in between the Chinese immigrants and the Irish working class, who are completing for the very same gruelling tasks in a progressively tight economy.

The very same holds true for the series’ unapologetic usage of blasphemy, nudity, and specific violence and sex (aka “getting sticky”), although Lee explains that Go Into the Dragon was ranked R for simply those factors (even if it’s still rather tame by modern requirements). “My dad was definitely not shy about any of that,” she stated. That stated, “He did not think in [gratuitous] violence for its own sake, so the action in the program is all thought-out regarding why it’s occurring.”