Written by Clifton Ko and Raymond Fung
Directed by Ronny Yu
Starring Brandon Lee, Michael Wong, and Regina Kent
Released by: Fortune Star/20th Century Fox
My Advice: Skip it. If you want to see Lee in something, rent Rapid Fire instead.
Brandon (Lee) is a fairly normal guy, with a fairly normal, if financially challenging, life. He works a couple of bullshit jobs to save for a future with his fianceé May (Kent) and maybe buy a motorcycle. Things go a bit south when Brandon’s childhood friend Michael (Wong) decides he’s interested in May, and frames Brandon for the murder of a meddlesome dirty cop that was making Michael’s drug-dealing difficult. So off Brandon trundles to prison for eight years, while May, who now discovers she’s pregnant, flees Michael’s “amorous” advances by moving to, of all places, Brazil. While in prison, Brandon learns that Michael wasn’t the friend he thought he was, and decides to get a little payback when he finally gets released.
[ad#longpost]The story here is pretty stock revenge tale fare, and for an action flick, that’s acceptable. Ideally, every bit of the preceding paragraph would have occurred in the first thirty minutes (absolute tops), and then we’d get a solid hour or more of Brandon methodically hunting down Michael’s lackeys and working his way up the scumbag food chain to the climactic battle against Michael after all the henchmen were dead, with suitable dramatic tension and fantastic finish (most likely involving Michael getting impaled on something after a long fall). Unfortunately, it takes over an hour to wade through the requisite bullshit setup, for a twenty-minute payoff at the end filled with assault rifles, uzis, and explosions. Unfortunately, by that point it’s entirely too late. Too little kicksplode, and not nearly enough of it in the first and second acts. Other than a mildly entertaining (but too short) brawl with a cameo-appearing Bolo Yeung in the opening moments, there’s pretty much no significant fighting in the movie. One long gun battle does not an action film make.
The performances are about what one expects for an action flick, which is to say a little over-the-top and cheesy for the most part. The bad guys are suitably sleezy and evil, and the good guys are all earnestness and determination. And May screams a lot when threatened. Lee, however, merits some further comment. He turns in a solid performance as the hard-working guy who got taken advantage of, and manages to convey a range of emotion that you just don’t get much in kung fu fare (sadly)…it just served to reinforce the tragedy of his untimely demise. Usually I’d have something to say about the fight choreography at this point, but frankly, there’s not enough fighting in the film to really pass judgement. The fight with Bolo Yeung consists of about three punches, there’s another three-punch exchange while Brandon’s in the big house, and then there’s some shooting full auto into crowded rooms and killing everybody at range. Yawn.
The only features we get are original and revised trailers for this film, and a set of additional teasers for other Fortune Star DVD releases. This isn’t all that unusual for the Fortune Star line, but it’d be nice to get a little something. This was Lee’s only Hong Kong film, and as such has some merit as a historical curiosity, so why wouldn’t you get somebody to say a few words about how Lee was received in his legendary father’s stomping grounds? Oh well.