"Rapid Fire" is a formula kick-'em-up vehicle designed to make Brandon Lee, who is the son of Bruce Lee, the latest muscleman star in the current barrage of summer action pictures.
And about midway through the film there is a nod to his heritage, when Powers Boothe says to Lee, "Why don't you take those fists of fury of yours outside!" Kung fu fans will most certainly chuckle at the reference to one of Bruce Lee's most famous films, "Fists of Fury."
But not much else about the movie is quite so inspired. "Rapid Fire" boasts some pretty good action, a few well-choreographed fights and a self-deprecating sense of humor, none of which is able to raise the film above the ordinary.
The familiar plot has innocent Lee reluctantly helping maverick Chicago cop Boothe nail a pair of drug-runners, one a stereotypical pasta-eating Italian Mafioso (played tongue-in-cheek by Nick Mancuso) and the other a sophisticated Asian supplier (Tzi Ma), who isn't bad at kicking up his own heels into someone's face.
Lee plays a Los Angeles art student with a chip on his shoulder. He refuses to become involved with Chinese-American students who stage campus protests because he's embittered over the senseless death of his father at the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
So, his fellow students hoodwink him into attending a gathering of the group at an art gallery, which just happens to be run by a local drug-runner. But wouldn't you know it the festivities are interrupted when Mancuso and friends pay an unfriendly visit and Lee inadvertently sees Mancuso "whack" someone. Lee promptly becomes a reluctant witness for the FBI.
Soon he's in Chicago, surrounded by corrupt FBI agents and looking for a way out. Boothe rescues Lee to use him for his own purposes he wants to take down the drug lord he's been after for 10 years. Lee wants no part of it, but, naturally, he comes around in time to save the day.
The plot twists are quite predictable, the love interest rudimentary and the bad guys made up of stock B-movie villains, played by stock B-movie actors whom fans of this genre will recognize from dozens of other violent action pictures.
As for Lee, he's not as wooden as you might expect. And it's certainly to his advantage that he doesn't have any of the annoying eccentricities of his peers such as Steven Seagal's egocentric mumbling, Dolph Lundgren's sleepy-eyed demeanor or the preening, self-adoring style of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Or, for that matter, any of their accents.
"Rapid Fire" is rated R for considerable violence and mayhem, a fairly steady stream of profanity, a sex scene, nudity and drugs.