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Filmism.net Dispatch October 2, 2012

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For no particular reason this week, I was reminded of a great talent the world lost far too early, Brandon Lee.

The son of kung fu legend Bruce Lee, Brandon's star burned very hot and bright and promised incredible things. His very early career languished in straight to video chop socky like the sort of films that had made his father famous, but there was a serious dramatic talent inside waiting to break out.

Watch him as second fiddle to Dolph Lundgren in Showdown in Little Tokyo, a genre piece where every element (including Lee) was designed to genuflect to Dolph's star power. Lee gives such an earnest, funny and lively performance he more or less steals the show from underneath his hulking co-star's nose.

He finally got his own star vehicle in Rapid Fire, where he inhabited the kind of stoic, can-do hero he'd played opposite just a year before. Once again the material fell way short of the actor reading the lines. It took Australian director Alex Proyas to see what almost everyone had been missing when he cast Lee as Eric Draven, the hero of the comic book adaptation The Crow.

Lee is magnetic, his crystal clear voice, piercing eyes and emotive face making him the leading man of a heartbreaking romance and the dynamo of a breakneck action film all at once.

During the scene where T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly) and his gang break into Eric and girlfriend Shelley's apartment, the propmaster handling the gun on set made a critical error in firing the gun after it had been cocked, letting the next bullet (which had a brass cap but no powder) into the chamber. Next time the gun was fired – by Funboy (Michael Massee) at Brandon as he entered the apartment while the gang were attacking Shelley – the real bullet fragment fired and Lee was mortally wounded, dying afterwards in hospital. Massee retired from acting for a year, devastated devastated despite it not being his fault, a lawsuit ensued, and even though the footage was admitted in court, Proyas ordered it destroyed afterward.

For a movie about a hero who dies prematurely, it was prophetic. There was footage on the original Australian VHS release of Lee being interviewed about the role where he talks about how you never know when the things you do in your life will be for the last time. It's as sad as it is eerie.

He was singularly brilliant as the vengeful returned spirit, and if he had to be taken from the world, The Crow should be the role he's remembered for. The film itself, never mind the role of Eric Draven, has seldom been bettered.

Back in the land of the living, I got to ask Ben Affleck what makes him tick for his forthcoming release Argo. Read what he had to say for himself here.

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