Can you believe I watched this for the first time this year? What attracted many has kept me away: the spectre of actor Brandon Lee’s actual death.
Brandon Lee, son of Bruce, was filming a scene like almost any other in the movie. It was a film about vigilante justice, heavy on violence. Michael Massee, the actor portraying Funboy, was required to fire a .44 magnum revolver loaded with blanks at Lee. The revolver had been inspected days earlier for a previously filmed scene in which it was not fired but needed to be seen loaded. Dummy rounds are used for this, which have a bullet, a spent primer, and no powder. One of the dummy rounds had a bullet, a live primer, and no powder. When test-fired, the primer propelled the bullet into the barrel, where it stopped. The gun was then rechecked, but no anomalies were found because the primer was now spent and the barrel was not inspected. Days later, the same gun was to be used again, without specific consent from or an additional inspection by the weapons coordinator, who had been sent home early. This time the gun was loaded with blanks, which are fully charged rounds but have no bullets. They make a convincing gunshot noise when fired, but no bullet is released – except in this case, there was a bullet, lodged in the barrel. A blank can still kill if used improperly, even without a bullet; the force of the exploding gas is enough to cause significant damage. But in Lee’s case, the exploding gas caught up with the bullet in the chamber and sent it straight into Lee’s abdomen where it lodged itself into Lee’s lower spine. The crew eventually picked up on Lee’s being slow to get up; he was rushed to hospital and spent 5 hours in surgery but was pronounced dead the next day, just 2 weeks before he was to marry his sweetheart, Eliza. His body was flown to Seattle to be buried beside his father. Production was shut down with an incomplete film and Paramount wrote it off. Entertainment Media Investment Corporation then bought the film and completed it using rewrites, body doubles, and ground-breaking (for 1993) CGI special effects.
So I feel a little guilty saying that I just didn’t like it. I suppose it was the Twilight of its time, its dark energy meant to feed the teenage need for rebellion and a certain morbid romanticism. But the whole thing’s a bit overwrought for me. Its moody, melancholic style doesn’t nearly make up for the wholly ridiculous things happening on screen. It’s about a guy who comes back from the dead in order to seek revenge on those responsible for murdering himself and his girlfriend, accompanied by – well, I’m sorry to say it, but it’s quite visibly a raven.
Despite Lee’s magnetic performance, the movie feels corny, and let’s face it – dated. It simply hasn’t aged well. Sean felt it was important that I see it, and since I made him watch The Craft, it was only fair that I succumbed. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.