Triple Hit Combo – Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee’s career path converged with mid 80s Hong Kong cinema’s trend toward emphasizing gunplay over kung fu. Filmmakers like John Woo and Tsui Hark, perhaps as a way to separate themselves from the post – Bruce Lee wave of cheap, quick and generally bad cash – ins, insisted on breaking from the assembly line style of action films to experiment with both more grounded and more fantastic concepts, the former incorporating a “realistic” firearms presence.
Unfortunately, Lee would die at the young age of 28 before the gun – fu fad ran its course and allowed him to properly display his own significant fight skills. It also left a sad paucity of films from which to draw for this edition of THC.
Versus Michael Wong in Legacy of Rage:
The legendary Bolo Yeung turns up as a low – level thug, just long enough for a quick scuffle with Brandon. Bolo always performs balls – out so this had the potential of being a brilliant fight. For whatever reason, likely the aforementioned gun fight emphasis, the fight is barely a footnote in the film. In the end it’s still great Hong Kong action though, and the breathlessly – paced plot leads us to a final showdown with 80’s HK stalwart Michael Wong.
Choreographer Hoi Mang works with Wong’s martial arts limitations and the requisite gun trope to craft a decent showcase of Brandon’s Jeet Kune Do principals in a satisfying, anything – goes war between righteous hothead and honorless gangster.
Versus Al Leong in Rapid Fire:
Lee’s first solo lead in a Hollywood studio film makes it a standout from typical 90s actioners by strength of his performance alone. Yet the fights overall might have been dismissed as no better or worse than those of any direct – to -video schlockbuster if not for two scenes in particular, choreographed by Lee’s friend Jeff Imada (Big Trouble in Little China) The first features veteran martial arts and stunt performer Leong (also from Big Trouble in Little China) who was versatile enough to match Lee’s unusual style of JKD trapping and catch wrestling moves for a surprisingly complex and quick series of exchanges.
Lee’s best and best – known film The Crow, while action packed was entirely kung fu-free. Given the overall atmosphere, this is entirely appropriate. For the third of his top three fights, we have to go back to Rapid Fire.
Versus Three Assassins in Rapid Fire:
Lee as Jake Lo is a witness under police protection holed up in an upper level apartment. One of his protectors is on the take, and opens the door for a pair of assassins. What follows is an ingenious three-on-one that has Brandon making maximum use of his environment to outsmart and outfight his gun-wielding assailants while trying to escape through the barred windows and to the ground below. A lot of time and planning clearly went into this film’s fights which would explain why there are only a handful, and this fight in particular.
Before becoming an ascendant star on his own, Lee worked with a few notable action stars in higher profile films; David Carradine in Kung Fu: The Next Generation and Dolph Lundgren in Showdown in Little Tokyo. But the true showcases of his talent as both actor and martial arts will always be Rapid Fire and The Crow. Then, we lost him, and something more than a dynamic film star. Brandon Lee was intelligent, thoughtful and openly loving to his family, friends and fans. There will never be another.
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