Monday, September 6, 2010

Random Reviews: Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

Everyone has their guilty pleasures.  Jolly Blackburn, the creator of Knights of the Dinner Table, has spent an inordinate amount of time praising the low-budget fantasy flick Hawk the Slayer.  Chris Sims of the Invincible Super-Blog has sung the praises of Gymkata, the movie which combines “the skill of gymnastics with the kill of karate.”

Love the Ultra-Patriotic artwork  My guilty pleasure is Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  Since the movie recently became available on Netflix’s streaming service, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to review it.

Loosely based on The Destroyer novel series, Remo Williams recounts the adventures of a New York City cop and Marine Corps veteran who is unwillingly recruited into a secret government organization known as CURE. 

The bulk of the movie involves Remo being trained in the ancient Korean art of Sinanju.  According to the movie, Sinanju is the source of all modern martial arts. Its practitioners have acted as assassins throughout history, killing such notable people as Napoleon and Robin Hood (a bandit!).  Much of the humor and charm of this movie comes from the interactions between Remo and Chiun, which manages to (somewhat) surpass the stereotypical East meets West conflict it begins as.

Ultimately Remo ends up on a mission to take down George Grove, a corrupt weapons manufacturer whose money and power leaves him beyond the reach of traditional  justice.  While I won’t go into the details here, suffice it to say Remo emerges victorious and ready to star in a number of sequels which never came about.

The Good

  • Remo Williams provides a number of interesting set pieces for its action sequences, most notably the scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty during its cleaning.
  • The main mystery involving the HARP weapon is actually fairly interesting.
  • There is decent chemistry between the main cast, especially Remo, Chiun, and Major Fleming (a.k.a. Mrs. Columbo, a.k.a Captain Janeway).
  • The movie does not take itself too seriously.

The Bad

  • Chiun is yet another case of Yellowface in American Cinema.  Of course the movie was released in 1985, so I am willing to cut them a little more slack than I would a movie released in 2010 (like The Last Airbender).
  • Pretty much all the villains exist just to be villainous.  This is especially noticeable in the minor bad guys like the teamsters at the Statue of Liberty.
  • The plot is… well, frankly the plot is somewhat thin.

Final Thoughts

I know that a lot of my affection for Remo Williams comes from the fact that it is a movie I enjoyed as a teenager.  If I came to it for the first time today, I might not be as charitable.

Nevertheless, I stand my my opinion that this is a fun, if somewhat goofy, action flick.  If you have Netflix streaming and have a couple of hours to kill, you could do much worse than spend it with Remo.