It would appear that the older I get the more of these guilty pleasure movies I like. After a very stressful day at work, I wasn’t in the mood for anything heavy or new. I wanted to watch something cozy, entertaining, and familiar. And I was willing to settle for a cheesy nineties action B movie. With that in mind, I played this one and it caught me totally off guard. Rapid Fire is a highly entertaining albeit formulaic nineties action martial arts movie starring Brandon Lee. Yes, the same Brandon Lee who would unfortunately die on the set of The Crow just two years later. I still get pretty sad every time I watch it because of that fact although it’s a great movie.
I would actually go so far as to say that Rapid Fire is Brandon Lee’s best movie. And I say that despite my love for Showdown in Little Tokyo. First of all, both muscular and limber, Brandon looks freaking great. Did you know that he trained 12 hours a day, six days a week to get into shape for both of these movies? Secondly, the fights are quite well choreographed and not as silly as in Showdown. Martial arts movie master Dan Inosanto worked with Jeff Imada, Damon Caro, and Jonathan Eusebio to make them as realistic and entertaining as possible. The three of them would go on to work on a number of big movies.
For example, they were stunt coordinators for all Bourne movies. And finally, the movie offers an interesting twist on the classic nineties B action movie formula. Brandon plays an art student who was with his father when he died during the protests in Tiananmen Square in China. Don’t worry, things won’t get political or anything like that. It’s just nice to see some authentic background for our main character. We open with a classic scene in Thailand where a local drug lord is negotiating a shipment of drugs to the USA via his Italian connection. And it won’t take long before we get to our first big shootout.
Oh man, when I heard those sweet, sweet Mac-10s and Uzis, I knew I was home. And before you ask, yes, this is an R-rated movie and the action is quite brutal and persistent. Moreover, the script is excellent as well offering well-developed characters. I found it hilarious how Brandon Lee’s character, Jake discards the guns he uses with disgust on his face. And you know what that means. He’s going to find ways to kick and punch his way out of any situation. He’s an art student, after all. Apart from him, we also have the mighty Powers Boothe and a slew of familiar faces. I’m sure you’re going to recognize most of them from other nineties B action movies.
And you also know what this means as well. It means that we’re getting those juicy and highly dangerous old-school stunts. You know the ones that look like someone got hurt making them. I just want to get back to Boothe’s character, no-bullshit cop Mace Ryan. At first, you’re thinking, well, they should’ve written him better. However, then you realize that he’s actually like that. A brutal and unrelenting cop willing to do anything to get his man. Counterweight to all this corruption is Brandon Lee and his rightlessness. Additionally, there’s this father/son dynamic going on between him and Boothe.
So, as you might’ve noticed, Rapid Fire is actually a much more complex movie than it initially lets on. Dwight H. Little, who directed Steven Seagal’s 1990 hit movie Marked for Death also knew how to keep things moving. The entire movie has this nice flow to it. It’s pacey but not too pacey if you know what I mean. So, make sure to check it out. Finally, if you’re looking for more of the same do check out Drive, a highly underrated nineties action movie. Year of the Dragon features a similar story but a much darker atmosphere and slower pacing.
Director: Dwight H. Little
Writers: Cindy Cirile, Alan B. McElroy
Cast: Brandon Lee, Powers Boothe, Nick Mancuso, Kate Hodge, Raymond J. Barry, Tzi Ma, Tony Longo
Fun Facts: There were intense talks about the sequel to this movie, also starring Brandon Lee before his untimely passing. The script that was thrown around was called Simon Says. And if that sounds a bit familiar it’s because it was later reworked into a script for Die Hard with a Vengeance.