Lee's charm is raked by 'Rapid Fire'


'Rapid Fire'

Starring Brandon Lee and Powers Boothe.

Directed by Dwight H. Little.

Released by Twentieth Century Fox.

Rated R.


Instead of calling it "Rapid Fire" they should have called it "Rapid Editing." The movie just jackhammers along at a breakneck pace: itfeelslikeasentencewithallthespacesbe- tweenthewordsremoved.

When it's over, you're in oxygen debt.

Conceived of as a star-making vehicle for Brandon Lee, the son )) of Bruce Lee, the film somewhat blunders in this primary assignment: The young man is in such a state of perpetual motion, you hardly ever see him. It is clear, however, that however proficient a martial artist he seems to be, he doesn't quite have the psycho intensity of his father. He seems a pleasant enough young fellow. Enter the nice guy. No dragons need apply.

This may not necessarily be bad. In a somewhat more ludicrous chop-socky, "Showdown in Little Tokyo," playing second banana the hulking and humorless Dolph Lundgren, Lee registered a commendable charm and lightness of touch. It's too bad that Dwight H. Little, who directs here, couldn't find a few quiet moments for the softer, gentler parts of his personality to shine through.

Instead the movie is like a Super Mario Brothers game, just one damned thing after another. Lee is cast as a young Chinese-American named Jake Lo, whose father, an American military attache, is in Tiananmen Square the night the tanks came. Jake is there, too, and he watches in horror as his dad gets squished.

That background story is nicely calculated to resonate with meaning for Lee's own life. Just as with Jake, the shadow of Brandon's father hangs heavily over everything he does. In fact, the emotional subtext of the film revolves around Jake discovering a new father to replace the one he lost. But Little is incapable of doing more than evoking this notion crudely, then abandoning it to a whirling frenzy of spin-kicks, dragon's head punches and submachine-gun fire.

The plot, to use a ridiculous word, takes off from mere coincidence: Jake accidentally witnesses a Mafia boss rub out a Chinese heroin importer and so finds himself in the middle of a three-way war between the Chinese, the Italians and the FBI. Soon enough yet a fourth side, Chicago narc, is added, to turn the thing to total hash.

Nonsensically, the movie flies from one huge set piece to another huge set piece, whether the story needs it or not. One need only compare the over-the-top, out of control violence in "Rapid Fire" with the savage, bitter brew in "One False Move" to see where Hollywood has lost its soul; in "Rapid," maybe 200 people die and who cares? Who even notices? Nobody in the cast seems aware of the blood on the pavement. Does the word desensitization mean anything to these people? In "One False Move," when the shooting is done, a mere three corpses litter the ground, but the whole fabric of society has been changed and one understands that the one survivor has been traumatized beyond belief; he will never forget.

Still, in the absence of another big stupid action flick in the market, "Rapid Fire" will probably do well enough to get Lee another chance. It should be interesting to watch.

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