Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
On paper, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) looks like it could be another Big Trouble in Little China or Buckaroo Banzai one of those weird, cool adventure films that somehow got financed by a major Hollywood studio in the 1980s, failed at the box office, then went on to achieve "geek cred" in the video aftermarket. Like Big Trouble, Remo Williams features a goofy, comical take on martial arts; like Banzai, it builds its film around an offbeat leading man; and like both those cult classics, Remo is fondly remembered by a certain substratum of geeks who first saw the film in their teens and thought it hinted at a larger, stranger world of adventure cinema. Unfortunately, Remo hasn't aged nearly as well as its groovier counterparts. Sure, the movie stars Fred Ward radiating his peculiar sex appeal through that gnarled stump of a mug as the film's titular hero. Sure, the movie features a politically incorrect performance by heavily made-up white man Joel Grey playing a wee Korean martial-arts master who spews racist diatribes, watches soap operas, dodges bullets, and walks on water. Sure, the movie puts Kate Mulgrew in a smart little Army uniform that's totally incongruous with her Hepburn-lite mannerisms. Sure, it features Wilford Brimley as the head of the lowest-rent covert agency in film history. And sure, the movie's based on the "Destroyer" pulp series by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir a series that stands at roughly 130 paperback titles and counting. (And by the way: Isn't The Destroyer a vastly better title than Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins?) Still, despite all the above, the movie quickly wears out any cult cred it might have mustered for three simple reasons: 1) Christopher Wood's script is TV-movie pedestrian whenever it doesn't feature Grey training Ward to be a covert assassin; 2) Director Guy Hamilton and the producers obviously thought they were kicking off some kind of blue-collar James Bond franchise, and Hamilton (director of Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever) shoots the movie in the listless style of the lesser 007 movies complete with perplexed bystanders as "comic" relief; 3) The pre-CG action scenes are inventive the fight on top of the Statue of Liberty is well worth a rental but they're shoehorned into the story in a way that's sort of insulting, leaving us feeling like we're watching one of those "Stunt Spectaculars" at Universal Studios instead of a cohesive adventure film. All that said, there's a certain goofy charm to the whole enterprise, particularly in the scenes with Ward and Grey; one just wishes it had been a little goofier. MGM's DVD release of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins features a full-frame presentation with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.