This ranks alongside **KING OF NEW YORK** as a spiritual not-quite-sequel to **YEAR OF THE DRAGON**. Let's put a few of the same characters in Chicago, with Raymond J. Barry in essentially the same role (though now even more overtly crooked and with the FBI) and swap out that Thai drug baron John Lone visited with Tzi Ma and now throw in Bruce Lee's son into the mix. Bring in horror director Dwight H. Little (fresh off his other successful action outing **MARKED FOR DEATH**) and see what we get?
Well, the results are a bit of a mixed bag for sure. While the action sequences are largely okay, the plot doesn't really throw us any surprises. The romance between Brandon and a female police officer falls flat on its face and the surrogate father-son dynamic he has with grizzled cop Powers Boothe feels similarly forced and awkward. Also, why is a big Chinese drug shipment being brought in via the Port of Chicago when anywhere on the West Coast would be 1000x more convenient? Plot contrivances galore, plus a really goofy Tienamen Square flashback make for just a little too much dumb writing to take seriously.
That said, Brandon Lee, though still a bit rough around the edges, is tremendously charismatic as the lead. His character seems very much a humanized fish out of water and his handling of the numerous martial arts sequences makes us lament his untimely passing that much more. Dwight's action highlights come near the start with a very John Woo inspired shootout in an art gallery and reach their crescendo mid-movie with a hapless gang of Italian wannabe mobsters turning their besieged restaurant HQ into a fortress.
Nick Mancuso, the primary antagonist of the picture, really shines as a somehow likable pathetic wimp of a mob boss. He's a lot of fun to watch, and its unfortunate that his character leaves the film prior to the third act, which turns into a straight-up dig on John Woo with a very low-stakes cliched battle in a Chinese... laundromat / factory (???). Both Tzi Ma and Al Leong get in some quality martial arts time with Brandon, but it's still so much more fun to see him in a fisticuffs match with giant brute Tony Longo in that mid-movie restaurant scene.
As it is, **Rapid Fire** has a lot of fun 80's/early-90's-style action in it and sits comfortably next to the likes of **RAW DEAL** and **HARD TO KILL** in terms of quality. Had it not been saddled with a lame script that plays its cards way too soon, it could have been a lot more. Leave it to Brandon's final film **THE CROW** to finally deliver the action goods to end up defining one of Hollywood's most tragically brief and promising careers.