Friday, September 30, 2011

Blind Fury (1989)

Title: Blind Fury (1989)

Director: Phillip Noyce

Cast: Rutger Hauer, Meg Foster, Nick Cassavetes, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb


Nowadays, when a film is released, companies already know what target audience they are making the film for. They do studies, they know on which television channels to promote the film and in which specific websites their promotional dollars will work the best in order to get their target audience in theaters. But once upon a time, the business of selling a film and knowing your target audience wasn’t as perfected as it is today. Back in the eighties, some films confused audiences upon their release to the point where the audience didn’t know what kind of film was being marketed to them. As a result, these films tanked at the box office. Two good examples of these types of films are Howard the Duck (1986) and Monster Squad (1988) to fun movies aimed at pre-teens/teens that failed to connect with them. Why? Well, for example Howard the Duck seems like a children’s film on the surface (we’re talking about a talking duck here for Christ’s sake) yet upon careful consideration it isn’t a children’s film at all. Howard smokes a stogie, carries a condom in his wallet, almost has sex with a human female, drinks beer, takes a look at a porn magazine (called Playbill) and finally, ends up working in a motel! And what about Monster Squad? Well, again, on the surface Monster Squad appears to be a film aimed at children, yet it was apparently perceived as “too scary” for them. I kind of agree, there is some disturbing imagery on this film, the kids shoot fire arms, say “bitch” and “shit”, read porn, take pictures of naked girls from their club house, stab vampire vixens with stakes through their hearts, you get the picture. The film was deemed to scary by critics, therefore parents didn’t let their kids see the film, hence, the films target audience never showed. Blind Fury, the film I will be reviewing today seems to fall under the same category of films that confused their audiences upon release.  

Blind Fury tells the story of Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer) a Vietnam vet who looses his eye sight during the war. He is taken in by the nicest Vietnamese ever portrayed on any war movie ever, and not only do they treat him and heal his wounds; they also train him in the ways of the sword. The training goes on and on for a while; long enough for Nick to become an expert swordsman. Fast forward twenty years and we have Nick, back in the United States, searching for his war buddy Frank Devereaux. What he doesn’t know is that Frank has been forcibly involved in the fabrication of a designer drug for a major drug dealer called McCready. You see, McCready owes a heck of a lot of money, and he needs Frank to create this designer drug for him so that he can sell it and pay off his debts. So McCready decides to kidnap Frank’s son and wife in order to force him to produce the drug. Unfortunately, the day the bad guys are going to kidnap Frank’s son, is the very same day that Nick decides to visit his old war buddy. One thing leads to another and Nick ends up saving Frank’s son from the bad guys, and soon finds himself on the road, running from the bounty hunters who are looking for Frank’s son. He is on his way to Reno, to save Frank and reunite him with his son. Will he make it to Reno without getting the kid or himself killed? Will he be able to save Frank?

Blind Fury is a couple of films all rolled up into one. First we have the Vietnam vet returning from war angle, not unlike the premise for First Blood (1982). On that film we first meet Rambo when is on his way to his war buddies house, same as in Blind Fury. Then we have a similar premise to that of the Japanese Zatoichi series of films; a series of films where the protagonists is also blind Samurai who in spite of being blind can kick anyone’s ass just as well as if he had his eyesight. We also have similar elements from Shogun Assassin (1980), a film in which a Samurai and his son are on the run from the Shogun who wants to kill him. And finally, this is one of those films where we have a father figure and his son going through a traumatic ordeal together, their bond growing as the adventure progresses. It reminded me a bit of Sylvester Stallone’s Over the Top (1987) or Tank (1984) a film about a soldier who tries to save his son, who’s been sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. You know, these are the types of films where father and a son bond. In Blind Fury, Rutger Hauer plays the role of the father figure, because Billy’s father is actually in a heap of trouble and cant be there for him.  

This must have been a difficult movie to market. From looking at the films poster, you’d think the film is a comedy about a crazy blind sword master, which it technically is. The film does have a slight comedy vibe going for it. But then there is the issue of little Billy, who tags along with Nick through out the entire movie, so then you get the idea that maybe this is a film targeted at that age demographic of 12 year olds. But then the movie is about a deadly sword master who slashes and dices he’s way through the bad guys like there’s no tomorrow, so then the film feels like it’s an adult film. So it’s a mish mash of genres which I’m sure ultimately made the film a hard sell for the studio. And when a studio doesn’t know who to sell a finished film to, it spells certain doom for a film project. This one tanked horribly, it cost less than ten million dollars to make, a reasonably cheap film. Yet it still didn’t manage to make more than 3 million dollars at the box office. So my theory is proven correct, when a film doesn’t have a target audience to sell to, it tanks horribly; unless by some miracle of the cinematic gods it connects with the audience somehow. And that didn’t happen with Blind Fury.

The films original poster  

The film is very lighthearted, in an interesting turn of events, Rutger Hauer isn’t playing the villain. Instead, he plays the blind swordsman with a heart of gold. I was expecting a hard hitting action film (and it kind of is at times) but instead what I got was a semi funny, lighthearted, father son bonding type of film with Rutger Hauer adopting Billy as his son for the whole film. And to tell you the truth, it was interesting to see Hauer playing this nice guy who cares for this little kid and will do anything to protect him, it was such a change of pace from what I’m used to seeing him play; so this movie is interesting in that way. I mean, you ever seen Hauer doing a bit of slapstick? You’ll see him here! Sounds weird don’t it? Hauer doing comedy, but strangely enough it works. We get to meet other funny characters as well, the villains in this film are a bumbling idiotic bunch who cant get anything done. At one point, a group of villains is chasing Nick and Billy through a corn field and one of them eats pop corn as he is chasing them down. Guess what that goons name is? ‘Pop Corn’! At another moment McCready sends a pair of buffoons after Nick, a pair of idiotic brothers called Lyle and Tector Pike. They are responsible for some of the funniest lines. One of them was played by Nick Cassavetes, the villain in The Wraith (1986) and the director of The Last Starfighter (1984). He is one of two bumbling brothers who say some pretty funny lines along the way. We also get Randall Tex Cobb a.k.a. the biker dude from The Coen Bros. Raising Arizona (1987), he plays the same character he’s always played in every single film. The tough looking gorilla type killer who’s always smoking something.

Nick’s abilities sometimes defy logic, I mean, I know blind people can augment all their other senses to compensate for their loss of sight, but come on, this movie gets ridiculous at times, which of course is part of the fun of this film. Hauer plays Nick in a goofy way which makes it endearing to watch. This film comes to us from Phillip Noyce, the director behind one of my recent favorite action films SALT (2010), starring Angelina Jolie. From this to SALT, you can definitely see how he’s improved as a director.  Noyce directed Blind Fury right after he had just directed Dead Calm (1989), a film that put him on the map as a director. He would go on to direct a couple more thriller/action films like The Saint (1997), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and Patriot Games (1992). The violence in Blind Fury is never really graphic or gory, which is another indicator that they were never really going for a hard ‘R’ film, and another indicator that this film was aimed at a younger audience. In terms of tone, this one reminded me a bit of William Dear’s If Looks Could Kill (1991), you know, nothing deadly serious, just a fast paced and fun film all the way through. Recommend it if you’re ever in the mood for those father/son bonding films, or if you just want to watch a film that’s lighthearted and funny.

Rating: 3 out of 5  


Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

This is one I haven't seen in forever, maybe 20 years. I should check it out again, especially now that I have a lot of Japanese samurai pictures under my belt.

BRENT said...

Great review I really enjoyed it! this is one of those films we hold in regard more as in a sentimental type way. I don't think it a great film and yet I love it with a real fondness. The thing is that it hasn't faded away as it has gained a classic and cult status, and not just among the 1980's set.

Franco Macabro said...

@Direct to Video Connoisseur: It felt like watching Shogun Assassin mixed with a Zatoichi movie, but with a funny silly kind of vibe. It's like a gangster movie for kids or something.

BRENT: Yeah, I agree, not a 'great'movie, but its fun, it's lighthearted and its fun to see Hauer kind of goofing around with his character.


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