FOOTAGE FETISHES: “REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS”

“You move like a baboon…with two club feet.”

Smith sends Remo and MacCleary to Grove’s factory to check out what’s become of all the money appropriated for the HARP program. After eluding some preternaturally intelligent, ladder-climbing Dobermans (the writers must have been big Donkey Kong fans), Remo breaks into the main facility just in time to see the HARP prototype blow itself up in a high-tech 1980’s laser beam extravaganza. This – quite naturally – alerts area security. In the rush to escape, MacCleary catches a bullet.

Wow, the black guy was the first one to die. Didn’t see that coming.

Seeing as how one-third of CURE was just wiped out, Smith decides enough is enough, and sends Remo to a military installation where another of Grove’s prototypes is being tested (and where Capt. Janeway…er, Major Fleming will be in attendance). Remo is simultaneously the best and worst covert operative ever: he manages to infiltrate a top secret Army proving ground, and then immediately get spotted by one of the people he’s tailing (Fleming). Grove uses the tried and true supervillain trick of trapping Remo and Major Fleming in a makeshift gas chamber, but our hero wisely uses the diamond in the lead henchman’s incisor (while it’s still attached to the man’s head) to cut the glass and escape.

Luckily for our two escapees, Chiun has been nearby the whole time, and when their getaway vehicle is incapacitated, master and apprentice (finally) decide to put that long, arduous month of sinaju training to work and send Remo after Grove. The Army does its understated best, using an artillery battery to try and bring him down, but in a trick straight out of “The Swiss Family Robinson” (it has to look like an accident, remember), Remo engineers an avalanche of logs that takes out Groves’ vehicle.

But wait! Groves isn’t dead. Of course, after surviving the impressive log roll, he makes the bad guy mistake of mouthing off instead of just shooting Remo in the back. Prepared now, Remo dodges the bullets and takes care of Groves. The rest of the battalion shows up, but they must be reservists since they approach in no discernible formation and allow Chiun to run across water to the boat where his student waits. The two men then escape into the sunset. Or at least to the next marina.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.”

Samuel Macon must have led a sad, lonely existence to go along so readily with all the crap he’s saddled with. Even his whirlwind acceptance of the events that befall him doesn’t change the fact that the movie suffers from far too much set up, especially by today’s attention starved standards. Aside from an initial confrontation between Officer Macon and three hoods, nothing happens for the first hour. After that, my tally came out to two fistfights, one gas chamber escape, some howitzers and machine guns going off, and the climactic log roll. This is hardly the kind of movie you’d expect to see in the Action-Adventure section.

The bullet-dodging scenes are pretty cool, and predate The Matrix by 15 years. But rather than treating us to some sort of visual F/X show piece or even some slow-mo with animated slugs, director Hamilton merely had his actors lean left or right while squibs are set off in the background.

“Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” seems to have a number of passionate fans, which puzzles me. Admittedly, the performances are solid (Joel Grey has his best role since “Cabaret”), and the film itself looks pretty good. But you guys out there singing its praises must have your fast forward buttons glued down, because the only other thing I’ve ever come across capable of putting me to sleep this easily is Wuthering Heights.

The book. Not the movie.

Remake My Day

My friend Andy suggested Wil Wheaton for the role of Remo. Of course, he’d suggest Wil Wheaton for the El Santo role in “The Blue Demon vs. Dracula and El Hombre Loco,” so maybe we better leave him out of it. I do think the role needs to go to a younger guy, so my personal pick is Henry Thomas. Having just seen Willard, I can also envision redoing “Remo Williams” as an action-horror film, in which case Crispin Glover would be perfect.

Both of us agreed Joel Grey needs to come back for the role of Chiun, as he’s one of the last remaining Anglo actors to play an Asian on film and get away with it (John Wayne, of “The Conqueror” fame, had to pass). I think it would be amusing to turn the tables and cast Geneviève Bujold, the original captain of the U.S.S. Voyager, as Major Fleming. Get Jim Brown to play a more “in your face” MacCleary, and top everything off with Udo Kier as Smith. It’s so crazy, it just might work.

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Writer Pete Vonder Haar takes us down memory lane for an in depth look at films we may have forgotten about. Some of these films will bring back fond memories, while others may force you to cancel your cable service in fear of coming across a late night screening of them.

Discuss Pete Vonder Haar’s “Footage Fetishes” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on April 15, 2003 in Features by
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