Brandon Lee never achieved the stardom that seemed to be his birthright. As the son of martial arts star Bruce Lee it seemed only right that he would star in the movies. Unfortunately, the results of his ambition were never spectacular.
Brandon Lee in the bloody
climax of Legacy of Rage..
Brandon's film career can be looked at as two waves. The second wave is much more famous. It started in 1990 with the German thriller Laser Mission (with Ernest Borgnine, which almost guarantees you'll be seeing a review of it here in the future), and continued through the awful, racist Showdown in Little Tokyo and the less awful Rapid Fire, before ending tragically on the set of the moody thriller The Crow.
The first wave began around 1986. Brandon Lee played an assassin in Kung Fu: The Movie (with Mako, which almost guarantees you'll be seeing a review of it here in the future), fufilling his father's in absentia desire to star in the series. Lesser-known in the West, Brandon also made a single movie in Hong Kong, the ominously titled Legacy of Rage.
Anyone expecting kung fu will be disappointed. This movie exists in the genre usually known as the heroic bloodshed thriller, where heroes and villains with tangled pasts shoot at each other a lot.
Brandon plays Brandon Ma, a regular working Joe who holds down two jobs, so he can support his girlfriend May and his dream of owning a motorcycle. Brandon's best friend is Michael (played by Michael Wong), an ambitious and murderous dope peddler. How Brandon and Michael ever became friends is the biggest mystery in the film. Even in the flashback we are treated to, Brandon is a sweet guy and Michael is a major league butthole.
In any case, Michael covets May and so he comes up with a plan that will win her for him, and solve another problem he's been having. It seems that an undercover cop named Sharky has been using his police connections to dominate the local cocaine trade, so Michael has him killed and uses Brandon as the fall guy. Brandon goes to jail, though he thinks that he will be released soon thanks to the efforts of his good buddy Michael.
Eight years later, Brandon finally gets out of jail. This brings up the question of what time frame this movie takes place in. When Brandon goes to jail, it looks like 1986. When he gets out, it looks like 1986. So did he go to jail in 1978? Or did he get out in 1994? And why hasn't he aged? The only person who seems to have aged is Brandon's son by May, who he didn't know he had due to the fact that May fled to Brazil with some creepy old guy to avoid Michael's less than subtle advances.
Brandon finally buys a clue and realizes that (gasp!), that oily guy who was leering constantly at May for the first half of the movie and is now the undisputed drug lord of Hong Kong just might be a bad guy! About time, dude. So with the help of a gun runner he met in jail, Brandon gears up for an assault on Michael's fortress.
The Son with a Gun - The scion of the Dragon
takes a different route to revenge.
Legacy of Rage is a fairly good vehicle for the scion of the Dragon. Brandon knows that he does not have the martial arts skill of his father, and so he goes a completely different route. However, those of you looking for Bruce Lee connections will be amused by the thug Brandon takes on the alley behind the restaurant: Strongman Bolo Yeung, who was one of Bruce Lee's unforgettable adversaries in Enter the Dragon. But this historic fight is cut short by the arrival of the local police. Rather, the real action comes in the final reel when Brandon gets his hands on a whole lot of guns.
The final gunfight is well worth the money we paid for the movie. Brandon and his partner raise all kinds of heck with submachine guns and shotguns. If you liked the gunfights in the Antonio Banderas film Desperado, you might be interested to see this movie, because director Robert Rodrigues seems to have been inspired by large portions of the bar room gun fight from Legacy of Rage.
Brandon Lee can not hold a candle to his father when it comes to commanding the viewers attention. But Brandon is a fairly imposing physical presence on the screen, and his 'don't screw with me' looks would work on us. His acting seems to be fine, though we did watch a badly dubbed version of the film, so our judgement is based solely on the physical aspects of his performance.
Michael Wong really impressed us with his performance as the baddie. Despite the fact that he looks like the results of an immoral genetic experiment involving DNA from Chow Yun Fat and Rob Lowe, he manages to portray evil without going overboard. Shing Fu shows up as Michael's chief henchman, but then again, Shing Fu is the bad guy in nearly every film that comes out of Hong Kong. All of the other actors are pretty boring. We suspect that this film was pretty low budget, even by HK standards. Either that, or they blew all their money on the last fifteen minutes of the movie.
We would like to leave you with a quote from the movie. As you know, most HK films we see are translated form the original Chinese language versions, and some of the translations tend to be a little, how shall we say, wonky. In this film, Brandon is informed by a police officer that he is going to jail, and that he's lucky to get off with as light a sentence as he did. As he leaves the interrogation room where Brandon is being held he says, "Sonny, you're going to spend a long time in jail. Have a banana." We think that says it all.