The story of Remo Williams is based on books from the 70s called “The Destroyer”, which went on become one of the longest men’s adventure series in history. He (formely Samuel Makin) is a New York cop who was recruited by a government agency that doesn’t exist. This agency faked his death, gave him a new name and forces him to hunt bad guys no one has ever heard of. So why not make a movie about it right? Well, I guess you could say the “Adventure” began and ended with this movie. There was a TV pilot made a few years later but like the movie it did poor and was never picked up. It’s a shame too because Remo, played by one of my B-movie favorites Fred Ward, is the kind of tough-talking government agent with a chip on his shoulder that people usually root for!
Remo’s first assignment is to kill a man named Chiun (Joel Grey). Unfortunately Chiun is a Korean martial arts master who can dodge bullets. Remo is no match, but luckily it was only a test; Chiun is his new trainer who has only a short time to whip this jelly donut eating cop into shape. This isn’t your ordinary training either. Remo must run across the tops of buildings, hang from Ferris wheels and traverse the Statue of Liberty which was under construction at the time of filming. During the training on the Statue, Remo finally meets some members of the group he is being trained to take out. These baddies work for a man named Grove who has been working some shady dealings with the government and it has cost American lives. Grove is on to Remo and his bosses and it’s time to start removing them one by one! Luckily Remo is a fast learner, and his uses his knew found martial arts and tight rope walking skills to toss the Grove thugs off the Statue to their ultimate demise! With the bad guys hot on their tails, Remo and his bosses quickly realize they need to find more evidence to shut down Grove’s business. They break into one of his factories and discover what they need, but it costs one of them their lives. It’s now up to Remo and his little Korean buddy to find Grove and finish him, Sinanju style!
It really is a shame that this movie/series never took off like the producers expected. It has everything you can ask for, adventure, martial arts, guns, and a little love interest played by Kate Mulgrew. Watching it again after a few years it was funnier than I had remembered with most of the comic relief coming from Chiun, who ironically was played by a white guy from Cleveland. But he did get an Academy Award nod for his work here. I’m surprised the Academy snobs could overlook his line – “Women should stay home and make babies!” Even though Fred Ward isn’t the best actor, he is a pretty likeable guy. Had this movie done well you might have used his name in the same sentence with Van Damme, Stallone and Schwartzenager… plus it’s much easier to spell! One of my favorite parts of this movie involves the transformation of Samuel Makin to Remo Williams. When he awakes after his fake death one of his bosses tells him they’ve given him a new face, which obviously only involved shaving his 80’s porno guy mustache. Also, we find out the name Remo Williams is based on a bed pan in the hospital room he was staying. Funny stuff!
Rumor has it there is a remake/sequel in the works. It could actually work out pretty well since not a lot of people remember the first one so there wouldn’t be a lot of FANBOYS to cry foul if it doesn’t follow the true story. Remo Williams is a fun action/adventure movie with an interesting story. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you try and catch it on cable or at your local video store. I give Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins a 3.5 water walking Sinanju Masters out of 5.