Birth of the Dragon really shows how meaningless and dubious the popular movie tagline “based on a true story” is in the year 2017. The film is indeed a dramatization of the fight between Bruce Lee and Shaolin monk Wong Jack Man, but at its core, its unassuming Caucasian lead character Steve McKee, played by Billy Magnussen (Ingrid Goes West), is fictitious. In a world where “whitewashing” movies is a known problem that has burdened films like Gods of Egypt and the remake of The Beguiled, it’s astonishing screenwriters Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele would even consider handicapping a drama about Bruce Lee with a white character who didn’t even exist. Before you claim it would make the film more marketable, than why is Magnussen omitted from the film’s theatrical posters?
Give All Saints some considerable credit. It’s a faith-based film operating in a day and age where films of the genre come out via small distribution houses with varying degrees of box office success and are more divisive than your average presidential candidates, that tries to humanize an often generalized and slandered demographic. Director Steve Gomer (Barney’s Great Adventure) and screenwriter Steve Armour try to take the debatably thankless route with their film, telling a story to their target audience about how refugees and minorities are actually capable of being decent human beings. Based on the true story of the All Saints Episcopal Church – a church that was set to be razed to make way for a supermarket that came back from financial ruin to help and unite a community – the film tells the story with no intent to proselytize, thankfully, but also with no real commitment to make us like our main character.