Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Remembering Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

Ah, the summer of 1985. Located smack dab in the gooey center of the Reagan administration, it was a time of quiet optimism, a time of pride and a time of shady underhanded doings (I am looking at you Oliver North).

So America needed new heroes, as the Ghostbusters were so played out by this time, and it would be a few years until a plucky New York cop named John McClane cracked wise during an L.A. high-rise office hostage situation and got his moment in the sun.

It was time for Remo Williams... the eleventh commandment that "Thou shalt not get away with it". Starring Fred Ward, and featuring Wilford Brimley, Joel Grey and Kate Mulgrew, this little movie is an overlooked classic of 1980's action cinema. Ward plays a decorated cop who is "murdered" and against his will, given a new name and identity as a super assassin to dole out justice to people who are too powerful and corrupting to get by legal means. Remo is then given training by the ancient Korean master of Shinanju, named Chuin (Joel Grey, whose makeup artist was nominated for an Oscar), who is both witty and deadly, a mix of the Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi and Kill Bill Vol. 2's conception of Pai Mei. Based on the Destroyer novels by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy, this movie could have started a nice little competing franchise for James Bond, and even the choice in director seems to reflect this.

The movie was directed by Guy Hamilton, who helped shape the James Bond franchise in the 1960's and 70's by helming some of that series' most seminal films, including Goldfinger and Live and Let Die. His experience with action pictures really paid off, as there are some really good sequences in the movie, the most obvious of which is the fight at the Statue of Liberty. Of course, this sequence also dates the movie, as it was filmed in during the renovations of the statue, so it is so clearly an 80's movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. It is fun, satirical and the underlying message still resonates in this post-Enron/Halliburton world. At the time of its release, fans of the Destroyer series were unhappy with the movie because it wasn't entirely faithful to the books, but as a stand-alone movie, it is pretty good.

The movie is also interesting because it deals with another area that would not become a phenomenon for another decade or so... the internet as the head of this little operation is Harold Smith (Wilford Brimley) combs the computer networks of the world to get the information he needs to make the most informed of decisions.

It is likely that you can pick this movie up for about ten bucks at a video store, and it is well worth the investment.


Semaj said...

You don’t know how much I love this movie! I loved the running on water scene at the end. It was live cartoon in some ways, such as the super smart guard dogs and such.

The music was good too. I don’t think people can buy the soundtrack.
The only problem I have with the movie is Kate Mulgrew’s acting.

MC said...

See, I disagree with you about the score. Something about it just rubbed me the wrong way, and I found it was one of the weak points of the movie.

But yes, you are right about those dogs.... they weren't your average canines.

Becky said...

I loved that movie! haven't seen it in years, thanks for the flashback.
I saw it at the drive-in, watched it, but cannot for the life of me remember the second show, *grin*

MC said...

Well, some things are more memorable than others. ;)

Unknown said...

This movie totally rocked. If it's on TV I'll stop what I'm doing to watch it. The theme music was classic too. The Best role Joel Grey has ever done in my opinion.

MC said...

And of course, I failed to mention Stone too... that was a good henchman.

Becca said...

Such a great movie! It seems like it's getting a bit of re-discovery lately or maybe it's just us kids who had HBO in the 80's reminiscing.

MC said...

I remember renting it from a local video store, and it always stayed with me.