Most of the films I have spoken about so far in this series are either all time classics or more recent and highly regarded movies (mainly animated as that is where my blind spot lies) but Remo Williams is in a strange way the most appropriate movie for the series. Born in the mid 70’s I grew up in the 80’s watching thousands of movies on VHS as a kid. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, or Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous as it is known in the UK market is the type of movie I would have watched in the 80’s. For example I remember watching a glut of cop thrillers involving revenge and or corruption including: Raw Deal (1986), Cobra (1986), Lethal Weapon (1987), RoboCop (1987), Number One with a Bullet (1987), Red Heat (1988), Blue Jean Cop (aka Shakedown) (1988), Cop (1988), Tango & Cash (1989) and Next of Kin (1989). However I didn’t see Remo Williams, why? Because I had never heard of it until I started blogging, over the last couple of years the name keeps coming up, usually on Man I Love Films and the MILFCAST. So it suddenly became an essential movie I hadn’t seen, a Blind Spot.
Based on The Destroyer series of pulp novels; the first Created, The Destroyer was written by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir and published in 1971. The series now runs to nearly 150 books, but only one movie. The American title “The Adventure Begins” suggests the start of franchise, future films failed to materialise. There was a 1988 TV pilot with Jeffrey Meek in the title role, but it wasn’t picked up. A reboot has been suggested, most recently in 2009 when there were reports of Charles Roven and Steve Chasman, the producers responsible for The Dark Knight and the Transporter respectively (Jason Statham as Remo Williams could be interesting) taking an interest, but things don’t seem to have gone beyond speculation.
Sam Makin (Fred Ward) is a tough New York cop and Marine Corps veteran who is unwillingly recruited by CURE a secret government organization who rename him Remo Williams. Williams is sent to Korean martial arts master, Chiun (Joel Grey – best know as the MC from Cabaret) who trains him in the fictional “Sinanju”. Quickly sent on his first mission involving a dodgy weapons manufacturer and the resulting corruption within the US Army, he comes across Major Rayner Fleming (Kate Mulgrew – captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager) who is investigating the same thing.
Directed by Guy Hamilton who had previously been at the helm of a Harry Palmer and four James Bond movies, the potential franchise was in good hands. The interesting thing about the film is that it isn’t actually that good, in fact there are lots of things wrong with it. Chief among the problems, It looks cheep and the story lacks scope, ambition and direction. The portrayal of Chiun by Joel Grey rivals Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in its awkwardness. The film never knows when it should be serious and when it needs to be a comedy. Having said all this, it has its moments and is often good fun. Fred Ward makes a good reluctant and moody hero and surprisingly good leading man. The big set piece fight on the Statue of Liberty is well choreographed and shot as are some of the other fight scenes. The first meeting between Remo and Chun is excellent, reminiscent of Morpheus and Neo. This along with the bullet dodging makes me think The Wachowski’s are fans. Composer Craig Safan’s score is often cheesy 80s synth’ but actually fit’s the tone of the movie well and is lifted the kung fu movie inspired sections. I can’t help thinking had I seen it in the 80’s I would embrace the good and overlook its problem the way I can with films like The Running Man (1987) and Road House (1989).
As a fun action movie the film works, but it lacks any depth or subtext. I’m glad to have seen it but it is far from an essential classic and because I saw it 25 years to late it lacks the emotional nostalgia that I have for other 80’s movies.
You can find the rest of the Blind Spot Series at The Matinee