"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Lee’

The Crow (30th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

On May 13, 1994, Johnny Carson was on Late Show with David Letterman, his final televised appearance. Times were rolling on, guards were changing. That same day Miramax, an indie studio recently purchased by Disney, had their biggest opening ever with a bitter R-rated comic book adaptation. While boomers were preparing to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, here was a movie with a soundtrack full of Lollapalooza bands, their names underlined on the poster, above a 1-900 number you could call “for music CD preview.” That particular demographic hadn’t really been cinematically catered to so directly, and they showed up, as did others. It was even well reviewed by critics, who were unlikely to be comic book nerds or Nine Inch Nails fans in those days.

Now THE CROW is 30 years old, further in our past than Woodstock was at the time. Jesus christ, man. I wrote a review of it 15 years ago. Time flies when you’re getting old, I guess. In 1994 this movie seemed amazing and important – it not only felt so new in its style, but was part of a collective mourning and/or discovery of this exciting actor who had lost his life making a movie about losing his life. Maybe I was falling for the ads asking us to “EXPERIENCE THE MOVIE EVENT OF THE YEAR” and “Take the journey. Experience the phenomenon.” But I went solemnly into a dark theater, the movie washed over me, I could just feel it more than think about it. Watching it now it’s more a movie I find interesting than a movie I can love. But I don’t mind that it’s style over substance. That’s why it works. Evocative imagery and effusive, unexamined emotion – that’s what goth is about, as far as I can understand. That’s what being a teenager is about. I used to be one of those. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rapid Fire

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

Occasionally during this Ronny Yu series I will go on tangents about films that are not directed by Ronny Yu, but are related to the topic at hand. I’ve been meaning to revisit my maybe-favorite-Brandon-Lee movie RAPID FIRE for years, and thought it would fit in well here. To be honest I forgot that I already reviewed it in 2009, but that’s okay, this is a better review. It was worth a reboot.

Lee followed his movie debut in LEGACY OF RAGE with LASER MISSION (1989) and SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (1991), but it was the Yu film that attracted the atttention of producer Robert Lawrence (A KISS BEFORE DYING) and made him want to find a vehicle to turn Lee into a huge American action star.

As I referenced in the LEGACY OF RAGE review, the Metrograph theater did an interview with Ronny Yu where he said of Lee, “He was 19 when I met him. He was wearing a leather jacket, leather boots, riding a bike, he was very rebellious,” and “He said, ‘I hate martial arts. I hate it. And don’t talk, don’t even mention Bruce Lee to me!’”

Years later in RAPID FIRE (1992), Lee’s character Jake Lo is introduced wearing a leather jacket, leather boots, riding a bike, looking very rebellious. An art major at a college in L.A., he pulls up to campus during a demonstration for democracy in China. Seeing the protest signs causes him to flash back to the historic events at Tiananmen Square, where he saw his dad (Michael Chong, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.) killed by soldiers. According to RAPID FIRE’s entry in the AFI Catalog, “Lee was involved in the development of the story, and a key element that resonated with the actor was his character’s struggle to deal with his father’s death, which mirrored Lee’s personal life.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Legacy of Rage

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

LEGACY OF RAGE (1986) is Ronny Yu’s Hong Kong action movie that’s in a crime/martial arts type vein, written by Clifton Ko (ONCE A THIEF) and Raymond Fung (later art director of Yu’s CHINA WHITE). It’s also the first starring role for then-21-year-old Brandon Lee, following his father’s path from American television (he was in KUNG FU: THE MOVIE) to Hong Kong cinema. Of course, we can also draw a parallel to Yu’s travels between Hong Kong and the U.S., which is part of the reason producers Linda Kuk (HARD BOILED) and John Sham (YES, MADAM!, ROYAL WARRIORS) thought they might work well together.

But Lee’s character Brandon Ma is not specified to be an immigrant, and I think his mouth movements are Cantonese (though both that and the English soundtrack seem to be dubbed by someone else). I was nervous when the opening had some nerd rollerskating through traffic listening to a Walkman, but luckily that’s just some drug courier and not Brandon. He gets a much more macho introduction controlling the machine that lifts and smashes cars at a junkyard.

This Brandon is a good-hearted guy – when his girlfriend May (Regina Kent, A BETTER TOMORROW 2) is angry at him for being late he doesn’t even bother to explain that he was delayed by heroically carrying a toddler to the next bus stop after she was left behind by her mother. That’s just the kinda shit he does, so it wasn’t even worth mentioning.

Brandon and May work together at a hotel restaurant called Casablanca, as a waiter and a dancer, respectively. Is the junkyard demolition thing part time? I’m not sure, it’s not mentioned again. Other than maybe having two jobs, you could call him a slacker – he sleeps on a mattress with no bed frame and has two posters of motorcycles on his walls – but he gives May a ring, which I think indicates engagement. (read the rest of this shit…)

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“Y’know – this is a weird part of town.”

August 23, 1991

SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is a movie I have long enjoyed (here is a pretty dumb review of it I wrote 13 years ago). It’s a buddy cop movie starring Dolph Lundgren (between COVER UP and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER) and Brandon Lee (between LASER MISSION and RAPID FIRE), so any possible deficiencies are easily overcome by their great charisma and the unrepeatable novelty of their team-up. Watching it in the context of these other ’91 movies it does seem slightly primitive; it’s a Warner Bros. movie, but the budget was $8 million, which is less than DOUBLE IMPACT – or even non-action stuff like DEAD AGAIN, THE COMMITMENTS, BINGO, RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON and LIFE STINKS – let alone the new state-of-the-art represented by POINT BREAK and TERMINATOR 2. Fortunately it’s in the capable exploitation hands of director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, CLASS OF 1984, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, CLASS OF 1999), so it has heavy doses of The Good Shit. He always gives you something extra.

Just as MYSTERY DATE has its two leads getting into trouble with gangs in Chinatown, this is about two guys fighting a Yakuza drug ring in L.A.’s Japanese district. In this case that’s in their job description as members of the LAPD Asian Crime Taskforce. Dolph’s Sergeant Chris Kenner gets the kind of introduction all his characters deserve: he single-handedly raids an illegal fighting circuit by climbing through a skylight, swinging into the ring on a rope and saying, “Haven’t I told you this is illegal, and it pisses me off?” Then he’s announced as the new challenger and has to fight the guys in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rapid Fire

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

tn_rapidfireAlthough THE CROW is what most people remember Brandon Lee for, it was this 1992 urban martial arts picture, his next to last starring role, that made the most serious attempt to turn him into an action icon. It positions him to continue his father’s legacy but in the context of American action of the early ’90s. John Woo and Jackie Chan movies were catching on huge here at that time, and this movie took plenty of influence from the shootouts and choreographed fights that excited us from those.

But it starts out on a Bruce Lee note. The opening credits have Brandon Lee in a white tank top like his dad sometimes wore, doing martial arts in front of a black void. His character is raised in Hong Kong, and sometimes speaks Chinese, and is living in the shadow of a father everyone admires. In an interview included on the DVD Lee mentions that the movie was written specifically for him, which isn’t surprising. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Crow

Friday, July 17th, 2009

tn_thecrowMan, it’s so sad to think about all these artists who get real good and then die in their twenties. How interesting would it be to hear old Jimi Hendrix recount the recording of Electric Ladyland, to see James Dean playing a father, or a grandfather, or Heath Ledger playing a character like Ennis at the end of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, but without aging makeup? That guy would’ve grown up to be rugged, but he didn’t have enough time. There’s such a long list of these guys who died after a period of fierce innovation, or seemingly on the verge of greatness. (read the rest of this shit…)

Showdown in Little Tokyo and Bridge of Dragons

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

The Dolph Lundgren vs. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa Saga
SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (1991) and BRIDGE OF DRAGONS (1999)

As I continue to learn about the works of Dolph Lundgren (no, sorry, I’m not writing LUNDGRENICS, I’m just trying to become a more well-rounded individual) it’s refreshing to find that he has many movies where he is a charismatic action hero and not just some grunting oaf. SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is one people have been recommending to me for years because it has him teamed with Brandon Lee, which is a pretty big deal for somebody whose most notable co-stars are often talk show hosts like Jerry Springer or Montel Williams.

Basically this one is a cop buddy picture with Dolph as the line-crossing, bushido practicing white cop on the Little Tokyo beat who by the way is out to avenge the deaths of his parents by a samurai, but that’s neither here nor there. We know Dolph is a bad motherfucker right away because he single-handedly busts up an illegal underground fighting circuit by rappelling in from the ceiling in the middle of a match and then taking on those who disagree with his decision. Later he’s in a cafe when he happens to see some of the same Yakuzas bullying the old lady owner for protection money. In the middle of the brawl that ensues he’s introduced to his new partner, Brandon Lee. (read the rest of this shit…)