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Blind Fury
(1989)
 

Director: Phillip Noyce            
Cast:
Rutger Hauer, Terry O'Quinn, Brandon Call, Nick Cassavettes


Special guest review!

By Jason Alt


If nothing else can be said of this movie, (which still airs regularly on cable), it can at least be said that it is not unoriginal. The notion of a hero whose blindness leads to a sharpening of his other senses has been His future isn't so bright, yet he's still gotta wear shadesdone before, though not overdone. Most of us will remember the amazing superhero Daredevil from Marvel comics. Daredevil's blindness accounts for his amazing hearing abilities, which he uses to battle evil and do really terrifying stunts atop city buildings. This actually bothers me quite a bit for several reasons. Firstly, why are there always so many flag-poles embedded in the side of skyscrapers at about the 50th floor? Who flies a flag that no one can see? Secondly, allowing that these flag-poles exist, how does Daredevil know where they are so he can get at them with his little rope-thingy that he has? Do they make noise? Does he smell them? He can’t see them - yet he fearlessly back-flips off buildings and lassos them as he falls. This strikes me as a little bit foolhardy. So the concept is not totally original either, but on the same token it isn’t worn out like some other concepts (can anyone say "reality television"?)

Rutger Hauer plays Nick Parker, the protagonist in Blind Fury, a movie about a man who is blinded in the Vietnam War, and rescued by friendly villagers. These particular villagers are well trained in the art of the katana, putting on wonderful demonstrations for the women and children of the village (who have seen it everyday as long as they have been alive, yet OOOH and AAAH every time someone does it.) This ‘demonstration’ begins with someone holding a sword. First he yells something in a crazy language (probably the word ‘pull’) and someone throws a melon over his head. Then the person with the sword makes two quick chops in the air before the melon lands in the hands of someone across the room. The melon splits a little bit and we see that it has been cut into 4 perfect quarters. Just to be assholes, and amuse themselves at the expense of someone else’s misfortune, they give the recently blinded Nick the sword and throw the melon in front of his face. After that they laugh like fiends when he either doesn’t even swing, or he misses, or the melon hits him in the head. It really is infuriating from a humanitarian standpoint (or you could just laugh along with them like I did.)

Over time, a nameless villager is teaching Nick to use the sword. He is taught Katas (which are choreographed demonstration patterns which have to be memorized), Hotel employees know some customers will do anything to avoid giving a tipand he is taught to listen for the melon. He teaches Nick this technique by hanging a melon on a string and bouncing it off his face until he moves, or anticipates it a little bit. He also laughs at him some more. Soon it is time for him to try the melon trick on his own. By now he has grown a beard. This is so the audience understands that time has passed ("I thought he had mastered the katana in one afternoon of being hit with a melon; I guess not because he has a beard now.") This is one of the many examples where this movie shows that the producers think we are all idiots. Any time they can show an audience common Cupric sulfate crystals and expect us to accept that it is a secret formula that an organic chemist has been working on for months you have to assume they take us all for buffoons. Which isn’t that far off base; instead of going out and getting a job I am here at home watching a blind guy cut the hands off of corrupt cops. Getting back to the melon trick, one has to assume he finally does it. It wouldn’t be much of a movie if he got shot 10 minutes later and with his dying breath gasped "I should have learned to cut up that guava before I left the village, huh?" So he cuts it up, and all the villagers are very impressed. At this point you have probably seen the best part of the whole movie, but keep watching anyway.

The problem with being a blind Vietnam vet/ninja is that everyone seems to want to kill you. Nick is on his way to go visit his old war buddy Frank Deveraux. He hasn’t seen him in 20 years, and the movie goes through no great lengths to explain why he waited this long to tender a visit, or what he has been doing in the 20 years since we last saw him last. This Frank Deveraux is the same Frank that we see running away from the ambush that left Nick blind in the beginning of the film. Nick has apparently forgiven him for this, but must not have talked with him in 20 years. When he gets to the house he learns that Frank is living in Vegas and his wife (the voluptuous Meg Foster) is taking care of their son Billy (the sickeningly cute Brandon Call.) Frank owes some very bad people a lot of money, and Nick ends up having to trek across the country to save his buddy. He also ends up having to drag along his initially bratty son and battling hordes of cops on the take, redneck thugs, and a Japanese ninja.

The action shots in this movie are terrific to say the least. There is a lot of silence with the main character creeping around and bad guys trying to hide even though they are breathing like Lamaze graduates. They He slices! He dices!are very tense, and the sound effects are designed to scare people s**tless after 25 seconds of complete silence. Under real conditions a sword whooshing through the air would make little sound at all. In these scenes, however, it sounds like a Concorde landing in your backyard. Very exciting stuff. People get stuff cut off of them a lot, too. It is kind of gratuitous even though there is little blood in this movie. I was actually a little surprised at the lack of blood in this film. Had I directed this film, there would be buckets of blood everywhere for no reason. The director of this movie however decided it would be more believable if someone who had gotten his hand sliced off would stagger away holding a stump that isn’t even oozing. I began to resent this after awhile; it’s not as if these people are being cut with light-sabers. The lack of blood however adds more to the credibility of this film; it’s not an excuse to show piles of blood-spattered corpses (even though piles of blood-spattered corpses are cool.)

He doesn’t take any crap either. The whole movie is peppered with people trying to play tricks on him because he is blind. People douse his food with hot sauce, tell him that rocks are candy, try to steal his poker chips, and are generally assholes. I don’t know if there are people out there who will actually do this to blind people, but if there are they should be shot. He doesn’t take abuse though. He has a very Chaplin-esque way of smacking people with his sword (which is one of those swords where the hilt and scabbard are one solid piece of wood so it looks like a walking stick, but can be pulled apart to reveal the blade,) and making it look like genuine clumsiness. It is actually quite amusing to see someone who can see in real life lampooning around so convincingly.

The movie is also jam-packed with s**t jokes. I swear about half of the dialogue writers from this move must have gone on to profitable careers writing for When this movie was made, Kosugi was still in Sho businessThe Bernie Mac Show. Stupid japes like "Makes me want to see if I can get my license renewed," after a scene where the protagonist drives the wrong way down a crowded city street and stops 3 millimeters short of a wall make me want to groan aloud. And groan aloud I did. After a particularly cheesy joke, my parents came in the room and asked what I was watching. With all that groaning they must have thought it was a porno. Far from it; there isn’t as much as one bare nipple in the whole film. I was a little surprised. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, no matter how bad a movie is, it can be at least partially redeemed by some boobs. At least that’s one man’s opinion.

I like it when people get their hands cut off. Who doesn’t? It looks cool if the film-makers can do a convincing job of it, and it is widely maintained that I am a sick bastard. There is a lot of that in this film as well as a lot of close calls. When the protagonist can’t see, he uses sonar. So he generally chops in the direction of noises he has heard, hoping to hit someone. Usually he cuts someone and messes their s**t up, but other times he will cut the end off a cigar, or cut their shirt open (he only does this to men, sadly.) This is a lot of fun to watch, and it is completely hilarious in an unrealistic sort of way.

Overall Rutger Hauer does a convincing job as someone who has been blind for some time, but has not been blind from birth. And Brandon Call does a very good job as the sickeningly cute Billy. He does all the stereotypical movie-kid stuff like crying at the end and yelling “I wanna go with Uncle/Aunt (fill in the blank)!” This movie manages to chronicle the progression of a love/hate relationship to one of love and mutual respect (just like every other movie ever made.) I liked the movie, and if you like a mixture of violence and an actual plot, this movie will tickle your fancy. Just don’t watch it around family; the groaning will make them suspicious.


UPDATE: I got this letter from "J. Fury":

"Howdy. Just read [Jason's] review of Blind Fury and mostly enjoyed it (I think I may have liked the film a hair or two better than [he] did). There was an element of the movie's background that you never mentioned, so I thought I'd pull your coat: The character Rutger Hauer plays in the film is an Americanized version of a popular Japanese film character called Zatoichi, much the same as Yojimbo being the basis for Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name". "Ichi", as he's sometimes called, was the hero of one or two dozen films starting back in the early 1960s. Though blind, he was far and away one of the best swordsmen around, and many of his fight scenes were played for laughs as he bested his foes while pretending to be helpless. This trait and the character's gently mocking , sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor, were among the elements that the makers of Blind Fury hoped to copy for American audiences. Alas, the film didn't spawn a single sequel, unlike its Japanese progenitor. As it happens, though, there are a couple of other touchstones that connect to the Zatoichi films:

"1) One of the films that pops up late in the series is, yes Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo! A decade or so after the introduction of each, Japanese audiences finally got to see two of their favorite characters face off in the same movie. In terms of its Hoped-For Effect, think of a less one-sided version of the buzz surrounding the recently back-burnered Superman vs. Batman film. Unfortunately, the movie's Actual Effect was a lot more like King Kong vs. Godzilla. Fans of both swordsmen found the movie a huge disappointment and many consider it to be the worst movie either character ever appeared in. Oh, well...

"2) In [the] intro, [he] mentioned Marvel Comics' Daredevil. Even I'm not geek enough to go into a lengthy description of how DD knows where those improbably placed flagpoles are. Since the explanation for same appears in Every Damn Issue, I'll just figure you were joking. But here's an amusing nugget: In an issue released some time during the early '80s, DD's alter ego, blind lawyer Matt Murdock goes on a business trip to Japan He is set upon by muggers who figure that a blind man will make for an easy target. Matt's heightened senses, of course, allow him to beat the living crap out of the thugs, who cringe in fear and run away from him screaming "Zatoichi! Zatoichi!" Blind fury indeed...

And I got this letter from W. David Pattison:

"As I am sure you will be notified by countless other comic book nerds, Daredevil's enhanced senses do not result from his blindness. His blindness and his enhanced senses resulted from exposure to mutagenic chemicals, which also granted him a "radar sense" which, combined with his superhumanly acute senses of smell, taste, touch, and hearing, allow him to perceive his environment far better than a sighted person.

"I do not wish to be insulting, but if one wishes to criticize a character and how he and his abilities are portrayed, it would help if one were actually familiar with the character and his comic book, which Mr. Alt obviously isn't. Again, I do not wish to be insulting, but it makes it rather difficult to take a critic seriously when he makes a criticism based on only the most superficial familiarity with a subject. Of course, he was actually critiquing Blind Fury, and the whole Daredevil thing was just a marginally related intro section to the main review. Still, it was just jarring.

"Thank you for taking the time to read the ranting of a comic book geek."

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See also: Mafia Vs. Ninja, Omega Doom, Sword Of Honor

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