When you think of the 1980’s, a plethora of classic movies spring to mind. Robocop, Predator, Blues Brothers, Aliens, Roadhouse, Commando, Rambo – to name but a few. An unlikely pretender to this crown, is a little known Fred Ward Secret Agent martial arts film – simply called ‘Remo’ – 1985.
Fred Ward, Secret Agent and martial arts, now there is a bunch of conflicting terms you wouldn’t expect to see together. Fred Ward, the star of Tremors and Tremors II who was also the dad from Road Trip.
Ward plays Remo Williams, a cop who is presumed dead after drowning in the line of duty, who has facial surgery to change his appearance to become a deadly martial arts wielding spy. Remo works for a top secret government department called CURE, headed by Wilford Brimley.
Trained by a Korean ‘Shanjai’ expert Chiun (a mythical martial art), Remo learns the skills to infiltrate and defend himself. But wait! There something wrong with Chiun’s face. Yip! They got a respected white actor to play him – Joel Grey from Cabaret! Still a decent makeup job for 1985.
So Remo goes undercover to infiltrate the army, who have been sold defective assault rifles, (which blow up in the face of the wielder) by a dodgy defence contractor. Remo’s first assignment mission is to kill Grove – the head man.
Along the way, he bumps into a young Star Trek Voyager‘s – Kate Mulgrew, looking mighty fine in a Major’s uniform; she plays a kind of sidekick/love interest for Remo.
Remo is a really odd kind of unintentionally funny b-movie, not really played for laughs – but not serious either. Based on the popular comic book series called ‘The Destroyer” it seems to sit somewhere between low budget TV movie and lo-fi action flick.
Take the Statue of Liberty sequence – the movie’s best set piece. Chiun takes Remo to the top of a scaffolded Statue Of Liberty to learn to conquer his fear of heights. It was shot in 1984 and they were cleaning the real statue of liberty up for the centenary!
So Remo is atop the Statue Of Liberty learning to balance, when he is attacked by three rogue workmen working for the bad guy. Cue a chase sequence down the Statue on ropes and pipes. An impressive sequence not least because they rebuilt the top half of the Statue Of Liberty in Mexico to shoot close up shots – combined with ‘on location’ footage from the real Statue.
More impressive though, is that Fred Ward seems to tackle alot of the movies stunts himself, including hanging from a tree trunk 100 foot up on a zipwire.
Ultimately though, Remo’s biggest plus is in the way it plays like an unintentional comedy. And it didn’t do that well at the box office in 1985. Fan’s of the comic were outraged at the almost-slapstick style of the movie which they felt didn’t relfect the Destroyer comic’s rich and loyal following.
So Remo – The Adventure Begins which was meant to be a trilogy, never came back for a part 2. Which ultimately was a shame – as looking back now, it definitely deserves its place as “One Of The Greatest 80’s movies ever” and if you claim to be a conniseur of 1980 movies and haven’t seem this hidden gem, you really should get it from Amazon here—-> 🙂