March 27, 2013

The Movies of Brandon Lee: Legacy of Rage

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.

In 1986 the 21-year-old Brandon Lee starred in his fist film, Legacy of Rage. Besides being Lee's first starring vehicle, it is also notable for having been directed by Ronny Yu who went on to helm such notable films as The Bride with White Hair, Bride of Chucky, Freddy Vs. Jason, and Jet Li's Fearless. Legacy of Rage also happens to be the only Hong Kong production Lee starred in. I believe it is due to his desire to not be compared with his father (legendary Bruce Lee, if you did not know). This could also be the reason for he lack of much fighting throughout the film.

Lee plays the creatively named Brandon. He is an average fellow, holding down a couple of low paying jobs and saving for a future with his girlfriend, May (Regina Kent). The problem is that his childhood friend, Michael (Michael Wong), is back in town. Why is this bad? Well, he is a drug dealing gangster climbing the ranks of his organization and he has a thing for May.

In a play to get the girl, Michael frames Brandon for the murder of a dirty cop. Brandon goes up the river for 8 years and May hooks up with an old man to escape the now revealed bad guy, Michael (who tries to win her over with an attempted rape). Anyway, word gets back to Brandon about his "friend's" true nature and he sets about having his revenge.

It is pretty standard revenge fare, but it still manages to be interesting. It has that over the top 80's action look and feel that is rather fun. It also takes an atypical route to the climax, which is not all positive. It meanders a little and may stay in the prison a bit long, but still it is not all that bad.

Seriously though, the only reason to really watch this movie is to see a young Brandon Lee. His performance is adequate and when he is called upon to fight, he more than holds his own, particularly in the all too short fight with Bolo Yeung, in a cameo appearance. Lee's performance may not have been outstanding, there was a lot of promise to be seen. He has a commanding screen presence, he looked natural on the screen and was full of raw talent just waiting for the right project to come around. It is also a shame that even his English language is dubbed, his own voice would have likely improved my reaction to his performance.

So, in the end, Legacy of Rage may not be the most memorable of revenge actioners, but it is an entertaining film with a notable lead performance. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Lee's later films and to anyone curious who may not have known about it.


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