In the middle of the 1980’s, Brandon “son of Bruce” Lee was looking to get into the business of film, though more as a straight dramatic actor than an action star. He was trying to make a name for himself outside of his father’s long-reaching shadow, but naturally producers were mostly interested in having him take up that mantle and he was quickly offered action films both in America and Hong Kong. In his tragically short career, Ronny Yu’s Legacy of Rage was Brandon Lee’s first leading role as wellas the only film he made in Hong Kong. The film was a success (though precise box office figures are hard to find) and netted him a Hong Kong Film Awards nomination as Best New Peformer. Despite that, Lee decided to pursue a career mostly in the United States, where he shot a few solid actioners before dying at the tragically young age of 28 on the set of The Crow.
In Legacy of Rage Brandon Lee plays a simple bartender whose friend (Michael Wong) pines for his girlfriend (Regina Kent) as well as for the respect of his Triad boss father (Michael Chan Wai Man). He sees the opportunity to get both in one fell swoop, by murdering a enemy of his father and having Lee framed for it. The plan works and Lee is sent to prison, leaving Wong free to prey on his girlfriend and rise through the Triad ranks. When Lee finally gets out of prison it’s payback time, though things are not that simple. His girlfriend is now married to an rich old man and has a son which may or may not be his, while Wong is now a Triad boss himself.
This is a straightforward action thriller that plays in an entirely predictable but entertaining way, though it suffers from an imbalance between the set-up and the pay-off : basically the film takes an hour to make its rather standard set of characters and situations reach boiling point, before erupting into a very enjoyable, well-staged but painfully short action climax. The action is expertly handled by Meng Hoi (who also plays a lovable fellow convict who assists Lee in his vengeance) and places an emphasis on car chases (there’s impressive car mayhem on display) and shootouts, with only a short alley fight against Bolo Yeung and his men showcasing Brandon Lee’s lightning fast moves. Lee himself comes off as a charismatic, charming actor, with an infinitely more likeable presence than his father. While Rapid Fire would provide a more well-rounded showcase of his talents a few years later, Legacy of Rage was nevertheless a fairly auspicious debut for the tragically still-born star.
Long Story Short : An unremarkable but enjoyable action drama, Legacy of Rage is a passable introduction to the considerable talents of Brandon Lee. **1/2