Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: October 11th, 1985 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Guy Hamilton Actors: Fred Ward, Joel Grey, Wilford Brimley, Kate Mulgrew

 


 

C

learly, with the sub-name “The Adventure Begins,” James Bond-wannabe Remo Williams was intended to have further theatrical chapters. But poor critical and box office reception cut Remo’s movie career short. Directed by Guy Hamilton, who helmed numerous 007 entries himself, the project is a copycat in nature, based on “The Destroyer” series of thriller novels (of which there are more than 100) by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. Although featuring much more humor, the action is a rather anticlimactic occasion. The elaborate Statue of Liberty setpiece is a successful yet lonely highpoint, sadly destined not to be outdone by the finale. And Craig Safan’s score is keenly momentous, bassy, and orchestral, demanding to be in a faster paced, more engrossing project (though the extensive drum kit rhythm betrays the ‘80s time period).

Not too far removed from Robocop’s origination, combat-accustomed but outnumbered and unprepared New York police department officer Samuel Edward Makin (Fred Ward) tries to break up a fight amongst dangerous thugs. After getting beaten and bloodied, his cruiser is pushed into the East River by a large truck. The following day, he’s declared dead and given a swift funeral. But he wakes up in a hospital, having received facial plastic surgery, and is assigned a new identity: Remo Williams (named from info printed on a bedpan in his room).

He’s been recruited by a covert organization (that doesn’t officially exist) due to his uncommon dedication and lack of family and connections. Harold Smith (Wilford Brimley) is the head of the company CURE, which is held accountable to the president of the United States alone. It’s a three-man operation comprising of advisor Conn MacCleary (J.A. Preston), Remo, and Smith. The legal system doesn’t work quite the way it’s supposed to, so the mysterious governmental program was founded to dispose of the criminals that continually elude justice. And Williams is the new hitman, tasked with walking into dangerous situations, executing bad guys, and escaping unharmed. But his very first assignment, to assassinate the elderly Chiun (Joel Grey), goes horribly awry. After extensive drilling by a Korean martial arts master, Remo is tasked with pursuing primary target and all-around evildoer George S. Grove (Charles Cioffi).

“You move like a pregnant yak,” states Chiun to Remo, who implausibly dodges bullets and spouts goofy insults through training sequences like an obnoxious, unrealistic Mr. Miyagi. He’s also boldly misogynistic. Many minutes are devoted to their partnership, largely overshadowing the main plot of uncovering Grove’s faulty AR-60 assault rifle scam that kills its users through a high rate of defectiveness. The romantic interest with icy cold female soldier Major Rayner Fleming (Kate Mulgrew, a rather stodgy choice) is similarly placed on the backburner (as is the unnecessary idea of her barrier-breaking ascension through the ranks).

A hilariously outmoded computer supposedly pumps information to Smith concerning all the villainy in the world. It matches the equally antiquated fight scenes, with characters unmistakably throwing punches too high or low to miss their targets, and editing that demonstrates only after-effects to avoid unconvincing contact. At least, there’s plenty of humor, amusing dog tricks, and a lengthy escape and assault in the Mount Promise Proving Grounds forest, where Remo acts as a one-man army. But why doesn’t he carry a weapon with him? Over and over again he’s caught in a jam that could be resolved by a simple firearm, but he insists on remaining stupidly unarmed – and yet, since he can dodge bullets and walk on water, perhaps it appropriately evens the playing field.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10