Blind Fury (1989)

The Principals: Director: Phillip Noyce.  Rutger Hauer, Terry O’Quinn, Brandon Call, Noble Willingham, Lisa Blount, Nick Cassavetes, Rick Overton, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Meg Foster, Sho Kosugi.

The Premise: Nick Parker (Hauer) is a Vietnam vet blinded by an attack in the war and nursed back to health by locals.  One of them, a highly skilled swordsman, also teaches him the ways of the blade, which is incorporated into a special cane that Nick uses.  Twenty years after the war and back in the States, Nick is a nomad (i.e. homeless) and decides to look up an old Army buddy, Frank Devereaux (O’Quinn).  But just as he happens upon Frank’s ex-wife (Foster) and son, Billy (Call), three dirty cops show up at her place to take Billy.  They work for MacCready (Willingham), a corrupt Reno casino owner and crime boss who cheated Frank and is forcing him to create a designer drug in order to raise capital to pay back loans on the casino.  MacCready looks to use Billy as leverage on Frank to complete his work. 

Billy’s mother is killed by the lead cop, Slag (Cobb), and Nick kills the other two cops with his sword Zatoichi-style.  Slag will become a recurring opponent for Nick as he shepherds Billy across country to reunite with Frank.  MacCready has an army of goons who will try to stop him; but they have no idea what they’re in for, right up until they’re being Ginsu-ed. 

Is It Good: Blind Fury is a relentlessly stupid movie, based upon a reality where 30 or so henchmen have the collective intelligence of a kumquat.  This is due to a script that’s so hair-brained, it could have only come out of the ’80s.  It’s an Americanized Zatoichi set in a time of bad haircuts and bad fashion.  There are so many instances where Nick could have been offed, it’s almost insulting to the viewer.  Narratively, Fury is a loose collection of slicings and dicings of dubious set up predicated on the idiocy of the bad guys to be constantly outwitted by a Daredevil wannabe.

Which, of course, is why Blind Fury is a highly entertaining romp.  It’s buoyed by its lead in one of his more sympathetic roles outside of Roy Batty.  Hauer is great fun in this film, as a happy-go-lucky wanderer looking to simply reconnect with an old friend.  But then he’s fucked with and people start picking up their limbs and trying to hold their their intestines in their stomachs, which have been turned into two-foot wide smiles.  The film also has a litany of hammy bad guy performances, and none more so than Randall “Tex” Cobb as Slag, a name you’ve just got to love.  Nick Cassavetes picked up a paycheck as Lyle Pike, a redneck underling.  Noble Willingham has a trial run for Shelly Marcone with MacCready, who must have bought his idiot flunkies wholesale.

Phillip Noyce directed, and he seems to have had good knowledge of the camp factor of the film, holding it together just enough so it doesn’t unravel like a bad guy’s entrails.  The film has plenty of good, cheesy action and oftentimes, Hauer is looking close to the man he’d come to cross swords with in the climax, Sho Kosugi himself.  There are the expected blind gags, like Hauer driving a van and knowing what’s going on around him better than sighted people.  In a key scene where he’s surrounded by 10 or more killers with guns in the dark, it helps to be the guy with the edged weapon and heightened senses for sure.  Call makes his debut as the requisite bratty kid; but he’s more tolerable than many others in the same type of role, and his relationship with Nick evolves genuinely and is quite affecting.

The question of what Nick had been doing for the last 20 years, how he survives with no job or where he was going after the adventure was over are unimportant.  All that matters is that, through a confluence of events Nick has people trying to kill him and plenty of excuses to clean his katana with someone’s blood. 

Is It Worth A Look: I’ve always thought so.

Random Anecdotes: Both Hauer and O’Quinn would later work for JJ Abrams at various points in their careers, including both on Alias.  Willingham and Cobb would have roles on Walker, Texas Ranger.  Cobb would also be killed by a guy who normally uses a katana in an episode of Highlander, the Series.

Cinematic Soulmates:
American Ninja
; Kill Bill, Vol. 1.