Starring Rutger Hauer, Sho Kosugi, Meg Foster, Terry O’Quinn,
Noble Willingham, Randall (Tex) Cobb
Sword Fight Choreography by Stephen Lambert
Directed by Philip Noyce
Someone in Hollywood thought that the Japanese had a pretty good thing going with all of those Zatoichi films that have been a staple of Japanese cinema for years, and wondered how such a character would be received in the good old USA. Now for something like this to be successful would require an actor who can actually act blind and yet display a range of emotions and look badass dicing people up with a cane sword. And by people I’m referring to Texans. Luckily they found Roy Batty himself, the great Rutger Hauer (whose newest film, Hobo With A Shotgun, is currently making its way around the indie circuit.)
The film opens during the Vietnam War, the place from which all 80’s action heroes come from, and we meet Nick Parker, crawling through the mud, newly blind thanks to a Vietcong mortar shell. Nick is taken in by local villagers, and soon they decide the best way to help him deal with his blindness is to teach him kendo and turn him into a badass.
We fast forward 20 years, and we find Nick back in the states heading toward Miami, Florida to visit his good friend and fellow soldier (the one he was blinded trying to help) Frank Deveraeux (O’Quinn, yes, the dude from Lost) not knowing that Frank was not only divorced and moved from the address Nick has, but is in Vegas threatened with his life by a greedy casino mogul MacCready, who is so rich he doesn’t need a first name. Or maybe that was his first name? Either way he’ll need one soon since he’s run out of cash, and needs Frank, a chemist, to develop designer drugs for him. If MacCready actually knew his shit he could have just gone to the local college and hired some chemistry majors and paid them in pizzas and beer. No need to break the law that far. But of course in this film he’s a Texan, so breaking the law is a norm.
Anyway, Nick arrives at Frank’s old house and meets his ex-wife, Lynn, played by the always creepy Meg Foster (I’ll bet she’s a nice lady and all, and she is pretty, but the red hair along with the bright gray eyes…just gives me the hebbie -jebbies) and their 10 year old son Billy. Lynn informs Nick that Frank is gone, and soon the police show up, but they are actually MacCready’s men led by Slag (Cobb) a cigar-smoking douche who knocks out Billy and blows Lynn away with a shotgun. Nick takes action in a fast but fun scene where he introduces the fake cops to the exact opposite of life, but Slag gets away. Nick takes Billy away from there, and together they travel cross country to save Frank, but little does Nick know that there is a great challenger waiting for him at the finish line…
This a good, light-hearted action film despite the violence, which is mostly bloodless. Hauer plays Nick as a carefree dude. One of the worst things that could happen already has, so he doesn’t sweat too many things, and carries an air of confidence the entire film, even when he loses his cane sword. He’s a man who is humble and acquites himself as such, but dick around with him and you can meet his cane, or sword, or both. The rest of the acting is pretty shoddy although Noble Willingham makes a good Texas douchebag (he’ll reprise a similar role years later as the main baddie in The Last Boy Scout). Which, before I go any further, I have to take a bit of offense at the one thing I disliked about this film:
Texans are gun-totting inbred half-brained douchebags.
Which is entirely untrue as I’ve lived here for some twenty-plus years. That is not the way we are.
Texas are actually gun-totting, knifestabbing, sword-chopping, karate and kung-fu fighting smart-with-a-twang people who will greet anyone they see with a hello or howdy. Take our newest Texas Ranger and national mascot:
See? Decent fellow. Good guy. Invincible (Except when he meets Bruce Lee) Keep Slaughter in San Francisco in mind. If you ever come to Texas, particularly Austin, you’ll have a good time, and no one will try to shoot you and cackle like a pack of hyenas over your prone body. Unless you’re too close to the border to Mexico. Then you are on your own.
Anyway, the grand finale, involving dispatching dozens of Texans, we get the fight between Rutger Hauer and the greatness, Sho Kosugi. I wished this had been the quality of the fights the entire film, but for what it was was great. I don’t how much of the sword fight was Hauer and what was his stuntman, but a great job was done here. Sho brought a lot of menace to a short role, and their fight was a great swordfight, if shorter than I wanted it. Not Brett Ratner short, but still.
Blind Fury has a lot of fun moments courtesy of Rutger Hauer, and his showdown with Sho Kosugi is fast-paced and fun. The scene in the cornfield was quite a bit of fun as well. Too bad they never continued Nick’s story. It could have been our Zatoichi. Can we buy Rutger a sequel? C’mon Hollywood! If you can make a Yogi Bear movie…
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)
CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) There is actually a lot here, and it’s pretty fast paced, but a little too short, but then again, for sword fighting that’s appropriate. Lambert does a good job of staging the fights, and Noyce shoots it well.
STUNTWORK: (6) It looks like these guys did their homework, reacting just like you would see in a Japanese samurai film. The didn’t need to do too much in the sense of tossing themselves around, but did the job from an acting standpoint.
STAR POWER: (8) Rutger Hauer, Sho Kosugi and directed by Philip Noyce,who would go on to direct and produce many of the Jack Ryan films.
FINAL GRADE: (7) A fun and enjoyable B-movie ode to Zatoichi. Not a great fight film, but some decent Japanese swordplay for an American film.