Now THIS Is What a Martial Arts Movie Should Be!
Duane Thomas | Tacoma, WA United States | 11/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To the strains of sitar music, a lithe figure dressed in white moves in slow motion against a black background, his graceful movements funneling seamlessly into violence. One by one, opponents present themselves. One by one they're smashed aside. Slowly we segue into a close-up of an intense, handsome young man's face, and we see the words BRANDON LEE. Thus begins Rapid Fire. If you wanted to build a martial arts movie superstar - and obviously that was the goal - you couldn't have done it better than with that sequence.
Serious martial artists were aware of Brandon Lee's existence since his birth. They also knew he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as an actor. All across America - probably the world - untold thousands of people rooted for him. Brandon paid his dues in a few ultra-low-budget projects before co-starring with Dolph Lundgren in Showdown In Little Tokyo. Not a great film, but Brandon was good in it, and that got him Rapid Fire, his first lead role and, as it turned out, an absolute starmaker. (On the strength of Rapid Fire, Brandon got The Crow - and we all know how that turned out.)
It's fascinating to compare Brandon as a martial artist in Rapid Fire to his dad. Bruce Lee started out a highly skilled martial artist with real-world capabilities who became an actor. Brandon by contrast always wanted to be an actor, thus his martial arts training was geared toward flashy techniques that would look good on-screen. What the hell, they DID look great. Brandon, though obviously a fine athlete, didn't have his father's explosive speed and power. But then, who does?
So many martial arts movies are dumb chock-socky. By contrast Rapid Fire is well-written and directed, and decently acted, especially by Brandon, Powers Boothe as Detective Lieutenant Mace Ryan (God, you gotta love that name), and Nick Mancuso in a cheerfully over-the-top performance as a crazed mob boss. On top of that, Rapid Fire fulfills the greatest requirement of a martial arts flick: the sense, as you watch the actors in motion on the screen, of "Oh my God, I didn't know human beings could DO that." This is not a love of violence per se, but rather a love of watching hard, competent people push the human body's design parameters in violent conflict.
The fights in Rapid Fire were choreographed by Brandon and Jeff Imada. The standout scene is a fight to the death between Brandon and Al Leong (probably best known as Endo, the torturer from Lethal Weapon, and Uli, the chocolate eating terrorist from Die Hard). All the fight scenes are top-notch, though several stunts, like using a motorcycle to drive a bad guy through a row of glass display cases, and employing a clothing rack to trip an opponent during a fight, were lifted from Jackie Chan's Police Story. However (a) in all honesty I have to say that both these moments were done better in Rapid Fire, (b) in 1992 in the US only a handful of hardcore kung fu movie buffs had ever seen a Jackie Chan film; even those few recognizing the influence probably smiled at the homage rather than considering it a rip-off.
There are other smile-making moments in Rapid Fire, like comments on how Jake Lo's (Brandon's) deceased father was such a great martial artist; Brandon's summary clocking of a bad guy dramatically swinging nunchukas, his dad's most famous weapon (obviously this fellow had watched way too many Bruce Lee movies); Brandon using as a disguise an outfit incorporating the same sort of Coke bottle glasses his dad used for the same purpose in The Chinese Connection; and I laughed out loud at the scene where Jake explodes all over a treacherous FBI agent, beating him like a red-headed stepchild, leading Mace Ryan to comment, "Jake, why don't you take those fists of fury of yours outside?" That little in-joke requires no explanation to any Bruce Lee fan.
So for Brandon a handful of crappy roles led to Showdown In Little Tokyo (so-so) begat Rapid Fire (a truly, deeply enjoyable action adventure flick) and then The Crow (an absolute masterpiece). And that's all we're ever going to have of Brandon Lee."
Problems with "Rapid Fire" disc
gojiraboy | Monster Island | 01/12/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with Mr. Tindall of Colorado, I would have given "Rapid Fire" 4 and a 1/2 stars but with the problems with the discs I lower my rating to 3 stars. (I realize this is not a 2-disc set, I will clarify my statement in a sec!) I enjoyed this film in which Brandon Lee starred as student Jake Lo.
It was a great film, and it was great to see veteran stunt actor Gene LeBell as one of Cerano's ( Nick Mancuso ) thugs. Gene LeBell ( former pro-wrestler Hank Hangman ) has been in tons of movies over the years most recently ( to my mind ) as the cabbie that pulls his gun on both Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the first "Rush Hour" movie. It's ironic and rather fitting that Gene also appeared with Brandon's dad Bruce / "Kato" on the TV show "The Green Hornet" as seen on the Brentwood Home Video DVD collection. Gene the burly redhead can be seen in "Rapid Fire" in the big shootout in the bar between Powers Boothe's cops and Cerano's thugs in the middle of the movie. Gene is the one wheeling out the big portable mounted machine gun.
It is here notably, that I experienced my problem with the disc. The next scene where Brandon / Jake fights with Cerano's big Lummox behind the bar, like Mr. Tindall I experience a pause flutter that I have to skip to get around. I've returned the DVD and bought other copies to have them all stop / "flutter" in the same spot. I have a second generation DVD player (i.e. pre- DTS, progressive scan) yet I have played 100's of DVD's in my collection without such problems. I've only experienced one other American DVD problem (I won't touch on problematic import discs) and that is Disney's "Emperor's New Groove" (Similar pause-stop/ flutter at the beginning of that film). I'm curious if this was a bad print run of discs, if anyone else has experienced this problem, or if the defect is in the "Master". I would appreciate if anyone who has bought this DVD without this problem would state so, just so I know good copies exist!
I have been a big fan of Brandon Lee and have eagerly awaited this film to be made available on DVD. Brandon's death greatly affected me, more so than his famous father's for I was very young when Bruce died (I'm close to Brandon's age). It's hard to imagine what a vacuum Bruce's untimely death left in young Brandon's life. I can only begin to imagine what a large shadow Brandon had to grow into manhood under! I followed Brandon's career closely and rooted for his successes. I know "Laser Mission" sucks, but as a completist I have it in my collection. Brandon's fans are doing themselves a disservice if they ignore the little known Hong Kong film "Legacy of Rage". I enjoyed "Showdown in Little Tokyo" when Brandon played second fiddle to "Duh-Dolph", I felt he should have been first chair! (I understand! He was paying his dues) I enjoyed the fight choreography, Brandon's quips, the ever present Cary- Hariyuki Tagawa ("Pearl Harbor", "Planet of the Apes"2001). It was great up until Brandon uttered that embarrassing BS ego-trip line for Dolph's bruised self-esteem (talk about "cutting the cables" to the suspension of disbelief). "Rapid Fire" is a great fight fan film! With inventive choreography (for Hollywood!), remember this was pre- "Matrix", "Crouching Tiger"... Brandon displayed blossoming acting chops as well as kicks, which fans know bloomed in his poignant performance in "The Crow". His performances foretold of greatness tragically cut short by his accidental death. I viewed both "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story", and "The Crow" with a heavy heart haunted by the prophetic nature of both films.
On a lighter note, I agree with the lady down under, who's review stated she enjoyed the fight at the end of "Rapid Fire" between Brandon and the little guy coming down the stairs. That "little guy" was Al Leong (not to be confused with "Aki"Al Leong). Al Leong the veteran Martial Artist / choreographer has been in many memorable movies (most notably as "Endo" the torturer in the first "Lethal Weapon", or as the candy eating terrorist in Alan Rickman's "crew"in "Die Hard". Al's presence these days seem relegated to quick death cameos (if you blinked you missed him in the Japanese fish cannery boat in "Godzilla"*American flop*, and in the end gun battle of Chow Yun Fat's American Debut "The Replacement Killers". Al seems to be more behind the scenes now choreographing films like "The Scorpion King" (Al's visible in the fight choreography documentary on that DVD) Al Leong can be seen in the films "Big Trouble in Little China"(a personal fave!), "The Perfect Weapon", as well as "Showdown in Little Tokyo".
I noted, as any fan of Hong Kong / Jackie Chan films would, that many Jackie Chan specific fight moves were borrowed and used in "Rapid Fire". Most notably Brandon's use of the rolling clothes rack to sweep the legs out from under the thugs at the laundry, and the motorcycle "crash / ride" of the thug on the front of the bike through glass cases was lifted from Jackie Chan's first "Police Story" movie. Oh well, as Colton said "Imitation is the sincerest of flattery"."
Brandon Lee In Explosive Martial Arts Action!!!
Thomas Yan Ong | Azusa, CA | 05/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brandon Lee, an exceptional martial artist in his own right, stars in this Hong Kong style action movie. Full of flying feet, guns blasting, and bombs blowing up. Lee shows us his skills in kung fu and Muay Thai as he goes up against the Italian mafia and the Chinese triads. His physical abilities are incredible, with his body sculpted to near perfection, like his father, Bruce Lee. Lee keeps up the legend using his father's style but he also takes it a step further when he combines it with Jackie Chan's style when he engages in battle. Also full of amazing stunts this movie is a must watch if you are an action fan, martial arts fan, or a fan of the legendary Lees. It is sad that Brandon Lee is gone, but in "Rapid Fire" and his other movies, he will live forever."
What would have been
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 10/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Rapid Fire will forever stand as the movie that landed Brandon Lee the star making role of the Crow, which sadly as we all know, would be the last time he graced the screen. Lee plays a college student and martial artist with a tragic past who witnesses a mob hit and is soon on the run. Eventually he allies himself with an obsessed cop (Powers Boothe) to bring down the mob and the heroin smuggling drug ring it fronts, with plenty of greatly coreographed action along the way. Lee alone makes Rapid Fire worth seeing, not only because it was one of his last screen roles and a look at what might have been, but because he could have become the biggest action star of his time, much like his legendary father. Lee has all the right moves here, and his swaggering performance is reason enough to see the film. Boothe is great as well in one of his rare good guy roles, and the cast is rounded out by an ultra sleezy Nick Mancuso as a mob boss and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3's Kate Hodge. The story isn't always coherent, and the editing is a bit triteful, but for action fans and fans of Lee's short lived legacy, this is worth picking up."