Plot: Jake Lo (Brandon Lee) has witnessed a brutal murder, an execution carried out by the mob to send a message to the rival drug pushers. This kind of violence is all too common, but Jake’s testimony could be a game changer for the authorities, as the crime involved a mob boss. Antonio Serrano (Nick Mancuso) was not only at the scene in person, but he was the one who carried out the kill, which means the law could bring him down and in the process, cripple organized crime. Of course, the mafia wants Jake dead and even when he is taken into protective custody, the reach of the mob is evident and his handlers try to kill him, then frame him for murder, but he is able to escape and go on the run. As the corrupt agents and the mafia ratchet up plans to to take him down, can Jake figure out a plan to not only survive this onslaught, but bring down Serrano and his crew at the same time?
Entertainment Value: This is a fun one, an martial arts driven action movie with ample 90s vibes, plenty of wild brawls, and of course, Brandon Lee in his prime, dishing out ass kickings left and right. The narrative is predictable, but allows the action to take the wheel and that’s what we want in this case, so while the story isn’t memorable, the fight scenes more than compensate. I’ve read some complaints that Rapid Fire feels like a b movie, which I agree with, but I don’t see that as a bad thing, as it has good production values and the b movie elements just add to the fun. The action is well staged and never feels second rate, even though it is a prominent part of the cinematic blend, unlike some movies that just sprinkle a little action into the mix. The b movie feel comes from the boilerplate cop movie narrative and some stilted performances, but the camp is fun, from my perspective. And since Rapid Fire puts the focus on the martial arts duels, it makes sense that thespian polish and in depth narrative threads weren’t given as much attention. Rapid Fire delivers on all expected fronts and for fans of martial arts cinema and action movies in general, well worth a look.
Although he is best remembered for The Crow, which was his finest performance to be sure, Brandon Lee has other capable efforts in his resume and his work in Rapid Fire is a lot of fun. I appreciate that his martial arts skills are put on full showcase and often, as most of his other action oriented roles tended to emphasize the gun battles, though he was competent in that arena as well. His fight scenes in Rapid Fire are fun to watch and while not inventive, pack a nice punch and make you think about his vast potential, if he hadn’t had his life cut short. The action is memorable here, but Lee also handles the light comedic elements well and of course, has the kind of charisma an action hero needs, so hits on all cylinders in Rapid Fire. Powers Boothe is also on hand and chews some scenes with his typical gusto, as a loose cannon cop. He adds to the b movie vibes I mentioned before and is immense fun to watch in action, as he really goes for it in the role and dials up the campiness. The cast also includes Kate Hodge, Tony Longo, Al Leong, Nick Mancuso, and Basil Wallace.
The Disc: Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release isn’t flawless, but it looks good and is a marked improvement over previous DVD incarnations. Most scenes look terrific with great detail and good depth, but some look softer and suffer from some digital woes. This never proves to be a serious concern, but it is noticeable and especially when a troubled scene follows one of the superior looking sections. Overall colors are natural and pleasant, while contrast is stark and never obscures detail in the least. So a little inconsistent, but far and away the best looking version of Rapid Fire available. In terms of extras, we have an audio commentary with composer Christopher Young, moderated by Nick Redman and focused on the musical elements, as expected. The disc also includes an isolated music track, two brief promotional featurettes, and the film’s trailer.