Saturday, November 15, 2014

Blind Fury (1989)

Hai! Karate fans, what's good?! We're back with another action-packed review for you. This go-round, we're checking out another underground classic from that bygone era where wave pants, New Coke and MC Hammer reigned supreme. That's right, the late 1980's! 1989 to be exact. On tap is 'Blind Fury', starring acting legend Rutger Hauer! Also filling out the cast is Terry O'Quinn (of later "LOST" television fame), Brandon Call, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Noble Willingham and Nick Cassavetes. Yup, real '80's vibe here. And in the director's chair is acclaimed Australian director Philip Noyce. So let's get to the gettin'...

Blind Fury starts out in the midst of a battle scene unfolding in the Vietnamese jungle. We see a helicopter crash, and a man crawling out with extensive damage to his face and eyes, obviously blinded. He is then rescued and taken to a village. This is Nick Parker(Hauer), and as he recovers, the villagers look at him with a mix of humor and curiosity to the point where one of them begins to teach him the art of swordfighting. Blind swordfighting. With a sword that looks like a full-fledged Japanese katana. Yeah. We then get a jump forward to see Nick walking along the highway somewhere in the Everglades, pausing only to avoid an alligator and then entering a roadhouse bistro where he lays down a whippin' on some thugs. Effortlessly at that with a slapstick edge.

We then get transported to Reno, Nevada and the sight of Frank Devereaux(O'Quinn)getting an upside-down view of the Reno nightlife thanks to Boss MacCready(Willingham) and his goons led by the Pike Brothers, Lyle(Cassavetes) and Tector(Rick OVerton) and the main man, Slag(Cobb). Devereaux is a degenerate gambler at this time, but he's also a chemist by trade. MacCready sets him up so that he's in over his head in debt. Which then puts him in position to pay it off one way: making high quality designer drugs. There's another bit of incentive: if Frank doesn't do it, his son Billy(McCall) and former wife will be killed. Where do they live? Florida. And so Nick, on a mission to look up his old war buddy, drops in on Billy and his mom. Riiiiiiight before the thugs come by.

Nick fights them off but it's too late to save Billy's mom. He then sets off to Reno with Billy in tow, who is NOT having any of it. During the trip, they bond and Nick has to use his uncanny skills to protect him. They get to Reno and find out where Frank is being held. It's up to Nick to take on MacCready and the whole lot to save Frank and Billy.

Blind Fury is an intriguing film to say the least. It's a great testament to how the '80's were dominated by action films like these with a solitary hero who comes to the rescue of others and/or fights for justice. Blind Fury stands out because of the way it blends humor into the entire story. I mean, when you have an exchange like THIS, c'mon: MacCready: "Dammit Ed, take care of him! Get me Bruce Lee!" Ed: "But...Bruce Lee's dead." MacCready: "Then get his brother!!!" Comedic elements aside, this was another move by Hollywood to cash in on either the interpretation or integration of classics from Asian cinema as influences. For Blind Fury, this influence came from the Japanese blind masseuse/wandering swordsman Zatoichi, who spawned a multitude of movies and a few television series. Specifically, Zatoichi Challenged, the 17th film in the series that starred Shintaro Katsu. This was thanks to an actor who wanted to get into producing films & had some clout to do so. That actor's name? Tim Matheson, best known for his starring role in the beloved Animal House. It wasn't easy; word has it that it took 7 years, going through 3 film studios and ELEVEN drafts of the script before Tri-Star gave it the green light. And Philip Noyce wasn't the first choice as the director, but he wound up giving this a great look and pace.

Rutger Hauer as Nick Parker is a GREAT role. Hauer has made a storied career out of being the cold, charismatic villain. You can tell he got a kick out of the part. He adds a wholesome effect, and a bit of goofiness in some places. Hauer has spoken about doing this role in the past, calling it one of his most difficult. And in an interesting bit of info, he learned how to be a blind fighter through training heavily for a month with Lynn Manning. Manning is an accomplished Black poet, playwright and world chapmion martial artist who lost his sight after being shot in the face during a bar brawl in his native Los Angeles when he was 23. His first words on meeting Hauer were, "I don't get confused about what I see.." The training paid off in Hauer's fight scenes. While they don't get too wild save for his showdown with the great Sho Kosugi as 'The Assassin'(like, really? he didn't rate a name?), they keep you riveted sure enough. The other actors keep true to character stock, especially Randall 'Tex' Cobb who by now had cemented his stature as a resident heavy in Hollywood action flicks. Blind Fury is one of those films that whenever you happen to catch it on air(much like I did waaayyyyy back in '91 on cable)you can't help but watch it. Grab a drink, some pizza and dig into this cult gem real quick. It's available on DVD and online.


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