Thursday, 27 April 2017

Retro Review: Rapid Fire (1992)

Rapid Fire
1992
Cast: Brandon Lee, Powers Boothe, Nick Mancuso, Raymond J. Barry, Tz Ma
Genre: Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $14 million

Plot: When Jake Lo witnesses a killing, he finds himself caught between two feuding drug lords. Betrayed and set up by the federal agents protecting him, the only one he can trust is Ryan, a single-minded Chicago cop who reminds Jake of his deceased father 








'A B-Movie Martial Arts Action Flick Saved From Mediocrity By Way Of Brandon Lee's Fighting Skills' 

The film that launched Brandon Lee, son of the famous Bruce Lee, as The Crow also ultimately marks as his last ever action film, which when you look at it, or as I look at it is a terrible shame. Had his life not been cut short, I could foresee him as a successful action star alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme. Rapid Fire's production values are of the B-grade action film. It is the action scenes that make it watchable above everything else as everything else is below par. 

Jake Lo is an art student, who is asked to speak at a rally over the whole Tienanmen square fiasco when he witnesses a shooting of a drug dealer at the art gallery he is attending. Placed in witness protection, he then finds himself on the run with the bad guys with the gangsters and crooked cops trying to frame him for the murder, on his trail. 

Watching Brandon Lee here, he has his dad's cagey swagger mixed with Jackie Chan's athleticism - yet less of the graceful moves; the scene where he rides a motorbike through the glass channels Police Story where Jackie Chan did the exact thing. The scene where Jake beats up the two bent cops in his own house is a good scene as well, the action overall is pretty good for a B-movie. There's no taking away this is a neat little action movie, but the script is a tad disappointing and is a bit too generic. The story is flimsy, lacking urgency and bite and when there isn't a fight scene, the dramatic parts are sort of 'meh'. The backstory with the Tiananmen Square thing was told in a way that I found it dreary and not very interesting. It seems that very little thought had gone into the plot and the film is just about watchable, due to the fight scenes. But even with the fight scenes themselves, they are not as high-octane and deft-defying as I'd expected them to be in this particular type of film. 

Lee does speak some Cantonese, although his pronunciation is not very fluent and yet his acting here is quite impressive: he has the ability to deliver his lines without coming across as awkward and stoic in his acting, whilst also switching things up with his fight choreography. Lee showcases more of his impressive and amazing fighting prowess, which sadly cannot be said for Showdown in Little Tokyo and The Crow - although The Crow was a great movie that didn't rely on, or feature his martial arts abilities to sell a film. 

Powers Boothe as the cop Mase overacts that at times I found myself cringing; in fact, the rest of the cast and their performances are inconsequential and weren't much to shout about.

Rapid Fire tries to combine some of the gunplay from John Woo's Hard Boiled with the modern kung fu fight scenes of Police Story, yet in contrast to something like John Woo's other martial arts-based action flick, Hard Target, which came out the year after, by comparing the action scenes in that film with Rapid Fire, Hard Target, for me is clearly and without a doubt, way superior. It was even mentioned somewhere that Woo was Brandon's first choice as director; in the end that never transpired, and as a result, Rapid Fire just doesn't offer more to elevate it above B-movie status. 

The terrible music that plays during the (needless) love scene and the cliches that bombard this film are evident (the romance storyline with the female cop, Lo struggling with his deceased father's legacy) and these are thrown in whenever they seem fit.  

In all, Rapid Fire is yet another in the long line of movies I've enjoyed years ago, yet in rewatching it today, I notice several flaws in it and that it ought to have been better. It is a B-movie through and through: bad dialogue, poor characterisations, bland story and not so impressive performances and fight scenes. It feels more ordinary and less explosive and jaw-dropping, especially for a martial arts film. 

Yet it is Brandon Lee who is the main, and only sole reason for sitting through this offering. 







Final Verdict:

Rapid Fire is the equivalent of a Hong Kong 1990s/late 1980s kung fu flick and one that showcases the type of action star Brandon Lee could have been, had he been still alive. Yet there is nothing really that special that makes it truly stand out from the likes of Police Story. Likewise, whilst the fight and action scenes are good here, they fail to measure up to the quality that was in Police Story, as well as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Hard Target. This film was lacking in certain areas and the action should've been a whole lot better. 

With more time and effort being put into it, Rapid Fire would have been a brilliant martial arts action film.   

Yet it surpasses Laser Mission and Showdown in Little Tokyo by a long mile, with a performance by Brandon with the potential and who was capable of acting with a range of emotions that is not typically seen with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Van Damme, and not just as an action star who can kick plenty of ass. 


Die-hard fans of martial arts films should definitely consider this a purchase, whereas for the rest of you who aren't into action and kung fu based fight movies, may - and I say may- find it worth watching to see Brandon beat up some bad guys when it is late at night on TV and there is nothing else on.




*score updated: 11 May, 2017*



Overall:


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