REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS (1985)
--Review by Nic Brown--
REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS is based on a long running pulp novel series called “The Destroyer”. In the film (and the books it is based) on Chiun, the master of the Koran martial art Shunanju, declares that “Assassination is the highest form of public service”. To that end, a secret organization within the US government called CURE was established. CURE answers only to the President and their mission is to bring justice to those who, through political or financial power, are somehow beyond the reach of the law.
CURE is not a huge organization, in fact there are only three members and ‘one hired contractor’. Harold Smith (Wilford Brimley) is the head of CURE and he uses the 1985 version of the internet to dig up dirt on the baddies. Then there is MacCleary (J.A. Preston) the field agent who does the leg work. Chiun (Joel Grey) is the hired contractor whose job it is to create the ultimate human weapon through the ancient Korean martial art of Shunanju for CURE to use to create ‘perfect assassinations’. That leaves only the before mentioned human weapon. CURE’s trigger man who doesn’t use a gun, the title character Remo Williams (Fred Ward).
The film starts as a New York city policeman is killed in the line duty. His death, however, is not as permanent a condition as one might expect and he awakens in a private hospital with a new face and a new identity: Remo Williams. Remo is not overly thrilled with CURE’s plans to make him into their weapon of assassination and tries to escape. This is when he is introduced to Chiun, who is given the task of keeping track of Remo and forging him into the tool CURE needs.
Remo finally begins accepting his role as ‘one of the good guys’ and begins his training. At the same time the film also follows weapons manufacturer George Grove. Grove’s firm is creating inferior weapons, milking the government for millions of dollars in contracts and costing the lives of US soldiers through technical glitches that are conveniently covered up thanks to his influence. Grove’s activities lead to him becoming the first target for CURE’s new agent Remo Williams.
REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS is an 80’s classic. There is plenty of action and quite a few laughs as Remo endures the wit, wisdom and training of Chiun. In fact, it is more the interaction between Remo and Chiun that makes the film worth watching than the actual story. The relationship between the two goes through many dynamic changes as they grow to respect each other through the course of training and working together. The dialogue between them is particularly good as Chiun constantly belittles Remo’s abilities and laments that nature snubbed Remo so cruelly by denying him Korean birth.
You aren’t going to see a whole lot of special effects in the film and the ones you do see are fairly low key. You also won’t get a lot of insane martial arts battles, despite the fact that Remo spends most of the film training to become a human weapon. You will however, come away from REMO WILLIAMS with a smile on your face because this is just a fun movie to watch. From a fight on the scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty (during its 1980’s renovation) to wild rides through the forest in a runaway truck, the film has enough action to satisfy, while still keeping the focus on the interplay between Remo and Chiun. Fred Ward does a fantastic job of bringing the pulp character of Remo to the screen, but Joel Grey is the one who really steals the show with his performance. Grey’s portrayal of Chiun is fantastic as he casually strolls through the film reeling off deadpan one liners and performing seemingly miraculous feats of skill without breaking a sweat. So if you come across a copy of REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS take the time to check it out and keep your fingers crossed that Chiun will get to lesson number 36!