Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Remo Williams – The Adventure Begins (1985)

June 11, 2012

Remo Williams - The Adventure Begins (1985) Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

This week’s movie-choice is based on a very successful series of books, “The Destroyer”-series, written by Warren Murphy and Richard Ben Sapir.  There are well over a hundred of them published so far and I actually haven’t read any of them. Bits and pieces from some of them sure, but never one in its entirety. Maybe I should? To see what the deal is with them, you know? My good friend Michael (I’ve mentioned him a couple of times before! Lives in England! Remember?), used to read them on a fairly regular basis. He too is an avid reader and I’ve heard him chuckle while reading them, so I guess they’re pretty decent.

From what I understand, that humor has been transferred very well to the screen. At one point it was supposed to be made into a TV-show, but only the pilot was ever made. I never bothered to check it out and have only seen stills from it. That is, however, not why we’re here this week, right? No, we’re here to talk about the BIG SCREEN adaptation directed by Guy Hamilton.  I have a hunch that you’ve probably heard of him? Among other things, he’s directed Battle of Britain, Force 10 From Navarone, The Mirror Crack’d and a bunch of James Bond movies.

Cooking with Chiun and Remo.

Cooking with Chiun and Remo.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins starts out on a stake-out with a gruff New York City cop munching on a hamburger in his car. All of a sudden he’s passed by three guys running towards the docks. The cop pursues them and a brutal fight ensues which ends with him being the victorious one. As he gets back into his squad car to call it in, he’s pushed by a large truck into the water. The scene ends with two divers closing in on the sunken car and fades out.

When he wakes up, he’s in a hospital-bed and has had facial surgery performed on him. At his side is a man known as MacCleary, played by J.A. Preston (Body Heat, A Few Good Men), who’s basically there to welcome him to his new life as an undercover agent, and thus Remo Williams is “born”. He’s been recruited by an organization with the name CURE, which is dedicated to fighting terror and preserving the American Constitution where conventional methods have failed.

Boy, is she a "Major" snooper!

Boy, is she a "Major" snooper!

The leader of CURE, Harold Smith, is played by Wilford Brimley from The Thing, Cocoon and High Road to China to name a few. Well, to be fair, Remo doesn’t really have much of a choice! Since he’s already officially dead, it’s basically, join us or… you get the point, right?

Remo is played by an actor I’ve always liked and who does really well in this one. He’s very good as the slightly grumpy cop who’s tough and strong but not very agile. At one point his mentor even compares him to a pregnant yak. As I stated earlier, I haven’t read any of the books, so I don’t have any preconceptions of Remo and that’s why I, at least, think Fred Ward is perfect here. Mr. Ward has appeared in Tremors, Miami Blues, The Right Stuff and many more, so I have a feeling you’ve seen him at least once or twice before.

His mentor, Master Chiun, is an old Korean master of Sinanju who is to teach Remo to become a master assassin. Not an easy task, I should add. Chiun feels that the Korean race is the most supreme on Earth and everyone else are inferior, and that the ancient art of Sinanju is the highest form of martial art there is. Or as he puts it: “Karate, Kung Fu, Ninjutsu… they are but shadows. Sinanju is the sun!”

Well, you know Remo, he's just hangin' around...

Well, you know Remo, he's just hangin' around...

Master Chiun is played by a very good actor who’s mostly known for his role as the Master of Ceremonies in the movie Cabaret, I think. His name is Joel Grey and is very funny in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. The interaction between these two is a pleasure to watch and you laugh out loud more than a couple of times during the course of the movie. Much of the movie is taken up by Remo’s training but the plot also involves corrupt politicians, arms dealers and the military. It’s a great action-movie with plenty of awesome scenes to go around.

The fight on top of the Statue of Liberty is spectacular, the scene with the Doberman guard-dogs is cool and the sequence at the army testing ground is also pretty intense. But all through these grand action-scenes, there’s still that little gleam in the eye, you know, which makes the humor and action work so well. What I also find amusing is that they’ve found a way to incorporate an over-dramatic day-time soap-opera into it. Wait… WHAT?? Yeah, well, just watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean!

Statue of Liberty fight!

Statue of Liberty fight!

If you’re a Trekkie (like I am) you’ll most definitely recognize the actress portraying Rayner Fleming, the army Major digging a little too deep into the arms-dealer’s business, and in doing so, becoming a threat and a liability. She’s played by Kate Mulgrew who’s done a lot of TV-work but I know her first and foremost as Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager.

One of the henchmen is played by another recognizable face, namely Patrick Kilpatrick from Class of 1999, Last Man Standing and Minority Report for instance. He’s called Stone and if you watch the movie, you’ll understand why.

I’ve seen Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins several times and every time I get the feeling that they had plans to make more, but that nothing ever came of that idea. I don’t know why! Maybe it didn’t do as well as they would have wanted it to, maybe it was a financial issue or probably a little of both and I think that’s a damn shame. It could have become a cool franchise!

What do YOU think? Do you agree? Why not let us know YOUR thoughts on this action/comedy gem? Until next time my friends…

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4 comments on “Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Remo Williams – The Adventure Begins (1985)

  1. Jules Jun 15, 2012

    Remo Williams is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again. I don’t know why, it isn’t really a well-made movie, just a fun flick. Dick Clark (yes, the American Bandstand guy) was the producer and he intended to turn it into an ongoing franchise, his intention was to create the American answer to James Bond. Scenes from the pilot episode of the TV series can be found on YouTube. And, yes, the books are pretty good, I’ve read a lot of them…

  2. Peter Nielsen Jun 15, 2012

    Hi Jules
    Thanks for commenting! I would have loved for this to have become an ongoing franchise. It would have been cool to see the development between the two major characters over a couple of movies. Ah, well… I’ll just have to pick up some of the books instead!

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