Blind Fury – 1990

Director Phillip Noyce
Screenplay Charles Robert Carner based on Zatoichi Challenged by Ryôzô Kasahara
Starring Rutger Hauer, Terrance O’Quinn, Lisa Blount, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Noble Willingham, Nick Cassavetes, Meg Foster, Shō Kosugi, Brandon Call

My mind plays tricks on me sometimes. Like when remembering movies like Blind Fury. For some reason, I forgot the many ridiculous elements of this film and those memories were filled in with iconography of Rutger Hauer, the great antagonist of Blade Runner. While few of these problems can be attributed to his performance as blind Vietnam War vet turned Samurai Nick Parker. There are certain aspects of his performance that require explaining (like his use for a digital watch), but overall, this could have been a giant win for someone of his caliber of acting skill. Overall, this film feels like the last gasp of horrible ’80’s action where all of the kingpins have southern accents and all of the bad guys are yokels who have never sat in a dentist’s chair.

The film starts off with a short prologue of how Nick Parker went from just another Vietnam soldier to a walking, talking Ronin for the good. His buddy from ‘Nam (O’Quinn, before his LOST overhaul) is in trouble with a gambling magnate (Willingham) who will put his ex-wife (Foster) and kid at risk to get some of him to go all Breaking Bad.

Luckily, Nick is there to intervene. There are moments of forced levity intermixed with the onslaught of bullets and slices of his sword. For some reason, my mind had this film being much better than plays today. If there is a good acting performance, it is well hidden. Even the normally reliable Willingham has phoned it in.

The thing about films of this era that confused is the absolute dedication to violence while making the characters so comically imbecilic. Every one of the bad guys, from the one note Cobb and all of his henchmen, belong on an episode of Dukes of Hazzard. Kosugi’s appearance could have been better, giving Hauer something to play off. It is cut short with inane choreography.

Call has the thankless job of being the little mouthy kid who goes back and forth between hating and loving his “Uncle Nick.” He’s not acting so much as barfing emotion onto the screen during takes. He swings back and forth between blissful ignorance, horrible recognition and dumb pranks.

I used to think I wanted to own this film. Now I feel bad just taking the time watching it on Prime Video. I feel worse for Hauer than anything. He’s got the talent to put more into this film than he does. Given the goofball history of the Zatoichi films of the 50’s through the 70’s, some amount of the silliness is expected. They could have done better by the character though, for sure.

(** out of *****)

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