Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Brandon Lee Blogathon: Legacy of Rage (1986)

Brandon Ma is a nice young man working two jobs to support his girlfriend May and their future plans of raising a family. The kind of guy to swoop in and help those in need, and not afraid to fight back when victimised, Brandon lives well, but has made the mistake of being friends with Michael, the son of a ruthless crime lord. Michael as inherited all of his father's evil and cunning, and more, and has a plan of his own. Since he and his father's business is threatened by a greedy corrupt cop, Michael uses Brandon as a scapegoat, and orchestrates him to be blamed for the cop's death. This leaves Brandon imprisoned for 8 years, and Michael all prepared to move in on May, who manages to flee in time. Eight years later, Brandon has learned of his 'friend's' betrayal, and with the help of a kindly convict he met in prison, he'll get his revenge and reunite with May if it's the last thing he does...

Legacy of Rage is a rarity in Brandon Lee's short filmography, and a very welcome addition, in that it's a Hong Kong production! I'm glad Lee had the chance to act in at least one film in his other mother country. Thankfully the movie is a good one too. A mix of genres, Legacy of Rage is a brisk film that has elements of drama, action, and more, making for a diverse picture.

The movie gets off to a good start, introducing us to all the characters well. It then shows us all of Brandon and May's plans for the future, which you just know are gonna be crushed, and sure enough they are. Brandon spends the middle third in prison, but thankfully this is never boring, nor grinds the pace or plot to a halt. The eight years soon end up passing (maybe a little too quickly, and almost no-one seems to have aged!)

The romance is well crafted. Even though everything that happens is fairly standard stuff, it's the execution that's important. The characters share chemistry, and have a few good scenes together. Unfortunately they only get one and a half scene after May's forced to flee Hong Kong, and that's it!
although I hated the scene where Brandon burns her letters! I get why, because he thinks she turned to another man, but he should've read them, and realised the truth, and kept these precious mementos! He was gonna learn the truth in 5 minutes time anyway.

Something I like about the movie is that people help Brandon a lot. Things maybe pretty bleak, but = is there to help May, the manager helps, and so does the prison captain, even Brandon's new boss when he gets out of prison likes him and gives him chances. It's little things like this that stop the movie from becoming unbearably depressing. Even though his life still sucks you = without switching the movie off from too much grimness.

The climax is where I have mixed feelings. Theoretically I friggin' hate it all, if not for the ending's superbly played emotions and music. But more on that later. For a start, let's discuss the genre shift. There are a couple of minor scuffles and brawls in the earlier parts of the film, but it's more of a crime-thriller than action. That all changes in the final 15/20 minutes, where Legacy of Rage suddenly becomes a 'heroic bloodshed' movie! Now, this action is all great, and I wouldn't so so far as to say it feels out of place, but it might be a little at odds with the rest of the movie. It could be annoying to some expecting this to be a full-blown action film only to get it just in the ending. I don't object to the direction the creators took this climax, but perhaps they could've kept it more consistent and had more of a [crime-thriller] suitable ending, with maybe Brandon using Michael's now vast empire [against him] to take him down, in a fit of poetic justice, then he could either be jailed (for maximum karma!) or killed. =

Now to come to the real problem with the climax-Its conclusion! Anyone who's seen the movie will know what I'm talking about. Something happens here that is just plain depressing! It's not necessary at all. I feel that Michael had already done enough to Brandon for the story. Now is the time for revenge, not for more to be taken away. Overall this is a big fat downer!

Thankfully the ending makes up at least a little for this, and it a very sweet conclusion. It's interestingly directed, it showcases the friendship between Brandon and Hoi, with no words necessary, and despite being relatively brief, it's a really nice conclusion to the film, with the music being the absolute standout.

The imaginatively named Brandon is a very good protagonist. We're introduced to him perfectly when a young child has missed the bus (what a shock!), and he hauls the [toddler] up on his shoulder and runs through the streets of Hong Kong until he catches up at the bus's next stop. It's a cheesy intro, but it's fun, and instantly endears you to Brandon.

He's a real sweet guy, and you feel bad for him for all the shit he goes through, and all the opportunities he misses out on. He's a real Count of Monte Cristo figure in that regard. Thankfully he too gets his revenge, and we're behind him all the way!

Michael meanwhile is a loathsome villain. He's an absolute scumbag and you pray for his violent death. During the early minutes his sliminess is immediately apparent the way he comes on to May, and talks to Brandon. He'll sidle up to him and say stuff like "Hey, I hear your relationship's not going so well", and before Brandon can have a chance to say that's bullcrap, Michael continues with "You can dump her and I'll take care of her. I don't mind used goods". Ohhhh noooo! What a son of a bitch! Thankfully Brandon punishes him suitably for that 'joke' as he claims it to be.

He's a traitorous bastard too, as we see when he's disturbingly willing to throw his best friend under the bus just to get rid of an obstacle, and to get May all for himself. During the montage where he builds his business up, we see him  and grow increasingly unhinged.

Poor May just can't catch a break in this film, but thankfully she spends the 8 years while Brandon's in prison not depressingly badly. She's a sweet enough girl, and nice love interest, though vanishes for a while in the midsection. She never feels underused or = written though.

Then there's Hoi, or 'Four-eyes'. He's cool! An unassuming gun runner (a good one I hope!), this scrawny little nerdy guy is a great help, and surprisingly badass! He's an honourable and noble friend, and you really = between him and Brandon. My only complaint is that after meeting Brandon on his release and promising the two would do great things, the movie forgets him for a while! Thankfully he's back in full force for the climax, and survives too! Phew.

The supporting cast are all quite good. Some may appear less than others, but they all feel distinct, and lively, from the weaselly corrupt cop, to Brandon and May's sympathetic manager, and the lonely Mr. Huang/Tang. At first he seems like a possibly dirty old man who can't take No for an answer, but thankfully he proves to be the opposite, and

The acting in Legacy of Rage is great. Due to the film's tone, Lee has none of the comedic charm he'd show in later movies, but he still delivers a performance of a very different kind. He handles the serious/emotional material very well  As for whether this is actually him speaking on Chinese I'm not sure. He could speak it, but maybe he got dubbed over anyway? Who knows, but =!

Michael Wong does too good a job as the evil Michael, and you spend the whole movie wanting to deck him. Regina Kent is spunky and cute as May, with moments of good drama, and Mang Hoi is fun as Hoi!...With these names the way they are I'm surprised they didn't hire someone named May!

The action is another highlight for this film. The stuntwork and choreography is great, and even though wirework makes a couple of thugs jerk unnaturally when shot, the impacts from their falls are very much real! The gunplay is super neat, as well as super ridiculous, with hundreds of rounds fired, blood splattering everywhere, and bodies falling left right and centre. It gets so insane that it actually distracts from Brandon's martial arts! Thankfully the last 5 minutes showcase that to great effect. We get other cheesy moments too, such as a grenade with a hilariously long fuse. Coming only moments after a previous one blew up instantly, this grenade stays stuck in Brandon's car for nearly half a minute!

The direction here is very good too. Stylish and colourful, each scene has something cool about it. Fight scenes are staged well, and even some simple conversations are framed neatly. The soundtrack is very nice too. We've got tense and brooding tracks, and calm and tender ones, with the aforementioned scoring during the ending making for a wonderful/lovely listening experience.

One last thing to discuss is the title-While the characters in this film certainly have something to be angry about, the name is more reflective of the star and his father, which is an odd thing to name the movie after. They'd probably share more of a legacy in philosophy, tranquility, and asskicking moreso than something as negative as rage. It's a neat enough title though, and serves the film alright.

Overall, Legacy of Rage might not be perfect, but for a first leading role it's more than what someone could ask for, and is a great first outing, as well as a fun action and emotional drama in its own right...

two brandon, umbrella rain, car gun, uzis, duo

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