March 28, 2013

The Movies of Brandon Lee: Laser Mission

It is hard to believe it has been 20 years since Brandon Lee was tragically killed on the set of The Crow. The movie has gathered a cult following and I consider to be one of my all time favorite movies. It is a shame that his life was cut down at such a young age, just as he was about to become a big star, in my estimation anyway based on his iconic performance in The Crow. In any case, I have decided to revisit his brief filmography.

Three years after his star turn in the Hong Kong production, Legacy of Rage (his only HK production), Brandon Lee took the lead role on the B-movie Laser Mission, which has lasers in title only. It is a movie that was originally set to star David Hasselhoff. So far as star power is concerned the film features a small, but pivotal, role from Ernest Borgnine (who I recently saw in The Devil's Rain with William Shatner, that is a must see) sporting a strange and vaguely German accent. As for. He film as a whole, it is very forgettable, save for the lead performance.

Brandon Lee plays Michael Gold, a skilled mercenary for hire. He is sent into Cuba by the US government to find out about the possibility of defection of a skilled scientist, Dr. Braun (Borgnine), whose inventions could tip the balance of power. Unfortunately, they are captured by some conglomeration of Russian and Cuban forces. Gold manages to escape and return to his employers where they have your typical B movie argument amount not knowing what's at stake and not having all the information, blah, blah, blah. The end result has Gold volunteering to go back for free to save the doctor before he gives anything to the Russians.

He ends up teaming with the shrill voiced Alissa (the well endowed Debi Monahan)l who never gets a moment to change out of her cleavage baring party dress. The two find some guns and head off into the barrens of the African desert where he had guys have the good doctor.

The movie plays out exactly as you would expect it to, replete with all the B action tropes of would expect to see. The goofy interactions, the boy-girl banter that leads to bed, guns that need not be aimed, you get the idea.

I have certainly seen worse films, but this one is pretty bad. Still, you could do a lot worse, especially of you are down with bad 80's action films. Again, the one reason to watch this is the curiosity of Lee's performance. You know what? It's worth it.

While I think his prior movie, Legacy of Rage, is a better movie, this one features a better Lee performance. He clearly knows the movie is bad and is having fun with the role. He displays an irrepressible charm and knows he is the only guy who knows how to fight and does his best to make everyone around him look somewhat believable. It is interesting to see a star in the making. Laser Mission is one of those movies where you watch the lead and wish he was in a better movie.

I am no serious acting critic or judge of ability, but just watch Lee in this and you should be able to tell he is destined for bigger and better things. He does action, has great screen presence, and can make a bad movie worth watching.

So, if you like seeking out bad movies, have a penchant for B grade, or worse, action, Laser Mission is for you. Watch the inept direction, the poor writing, the horribly miscast comic relief, the weird Borgnine accent, and most importantly, the next step on Brandon Lee's path to stardom.

Recommended? Sure, why not?

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