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Bruce Lee-written Chinatown action series ‘Warrior’ arrives on HBO Max

Image: David Bloomer/Cinemax
By Joe Kukura - Published on January 06, 2021.

The late, great San Francisco-born movie star Bruce Lee is known for his martial arts and action films, but you don’t really think of him as a writer. Yet Lee both wrote and directed the 1972 blockbuster Way of the Dragon (to which Enter the Dragon was a sequel). Prior to that, Lee wrote a television pilot called Ah Sahm that he couldn’t get any TV studio to buy. His wife said in her 1975 biography of him that the show Kung Fu was a ripoff of Lee’s idea, with Warner Bros. instead casting David Carradine in Lee’s role of a martial arts fighter in the Wild West era.

But Bruce Lee’s show has eventually been made, thanks to his daughter Shannon Lee. She’s the executive producer of the action-drama series Warrior, set in the San Francisco Chinatown Tong Wars of the 1870s, which is now streaming on HBO Max. 

Warrior actually premiered last year on Cinemax, so it’s not a brand new series. Cinemax’s original series don’t garner nearly as much attention as HBO's, and there are already two seasons of the show available on demand. HBO Max dropped both seasons to their platform on Jan. 1, and each season is 10 episodes of roughly one-hour shows. So there’s some serious binging available to HBO Max subscribers.

Review aggregators have rated the show pretty well. The Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer gives it a 79% score, and on Metacritic, the average audience rating is 8 out of 10. Rolling Stone rated it one of the “Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far” (in June of that year), praising the show’s depiction of “scorching rivalries between different Tongs in San Francisco’s Chinatown, racial tension very much evoking our current ugly political moment, and elaborate fight scenes that often surpassed the best that [showrunner Jonathan] Tropper’s previous Cinemax pulp drama Banshee had to offer.” 

Whether or not the show is a hit, it’s a morale boost for the beleaguered Chinatown neighborhood to be featured in an epic prestige television show. Unfortunately, though, the show was not actually shot in San Francisco’s Chinatown. According to the iMDB location listings for the show, the whole thing was shot in Cape Town, South Africa.

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