a critiQal film review Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

  • DVD

Plot: Given a new face and identity, a street-smart NYC cop is recruited into a super-secret organization which roots out crooks so powerful they defy traditional law enforcement. With the help of a mischievous martial arts trainer (Grey), Remo Williams (Ward) will be the agency's instrument of justice. First assignment - stop a traitorous arms merchant (Cioffi).

552 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 45s)

Ah, cheese abounded in the 80’s, didn’t it? With silly action movies popping up left and right, it was hard to choose which ones to see and which to skip. Now, 2 decades later, we look back and choose, in order to find out if they have withstood the test of time, or if their action cheese has gotten moldy. Up next: Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Fred Ward isn’t exactly known for his action hero status these days. In fact, he’s barely known at all, not having made much of an impact on the viewer since showing up in Invasion: Earth (TV) more than a decade ago. But, he’s still a recognizable, if relatively unplaceable, face. Seeing him as the action hero in Remo Williams at first seems like a solid fit for him. That’s especially true for a film made back in the 80’s, when similar-looking actors like Lee Majors were big names in action.

Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving, as Ward tries to bluff his way through the film instead of showing any sort of real acting talent. Joel Grey, mostly memorable these days thanks to a few episodes of Alias (TV), does a better job of playing the teacher to Ward’s student. He’s able to provide a bit of humor and interest for the viewers. Kate Mulgrew (“Star Trek: Voyager” (TV)) also pops up briefly, but isn’t given a chance to do much more than run around in a military uniform – albeit one with a skirt and heels. Wilford Brimley, everybody’s favorite grandpa figure, is lackluster and rather unbelievable as the head of a secret assassination organization. Still, it’s comforting to see his face every now and again (although the viewer might get a craving for Quaker Oats).

But mostly it’s the ridiculous plot that brings down Remo Williams. Combining the master/student training montage of The Karate Kid (1984) with another faked-death-to-join-a-secret-organization storyline gets real old, real quick. There are brief moments where the master/student relationship shines, but usually those are interrupted by some silly action sequences (including a fight amongst the scaffolding on the Statue of Liberty). Sadly, these fight sequences showcase none of the experience the student has supposedly gained in his studies. Instead, our “hero” flails around just the same as ever, and spends most of his time running away.

The Destroyer book series the film is based on seems like a hard-hitting, knife-edged series of thrillers. For some reason, director Guy Hamilton and the folks at MGM thought the big-screen adaptation should be more lighthearted and funny than thrilling. Inevitably, they completely destroy most of the appeal of the series.

Sadly, this means the viewers are left with a mess of a film in a decade known for it’s cheese. Unlike some classic cheese-fests like Big Trouble in Little China (1986), however, this film tries to remain serious even while tossing in mostly pathetic attempts at humor. Even the master/student relationship that develops seems to be tossed together.

Unfortunately, that means that Remo Williams, while full of cheesy sequences and silly acting, doesn’t come across as a good time anymore. Maybe it was dumb escapism in the 80’s that drew us to Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. These days we’re a bit more picky about even our silly action pics – and this retread just doesn’t cut it anymore.

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