Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

Score Technician: Alex Pearlstein

Shlubby hamburger-eating cop whatshisname (Fred Ward) is kidnapped in an elaborate manner by CURE, the President’s top-secret Wilford Brimley led agency, re-Christened as Remo Williams, forced to train in the kick-ass and totally not made up martial art of Sinanju by Master Chiun (Joel Grey), and ultimately convinced to put his newly honed skills to use in rooting out domestic government and military corruption through, well, killing people, basically. Directed by Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton, and based on a series of books called The Destroyer, of which there were about 60(!) by the time of the movie’s release, Remo Williams: The Advenure Begins, promised to cook up the kind of nougaty ‘80s action candy that only the nanobot-lined stomachs of our drunken Progressive Cinema Scorecard technicians are capable of digesting.
  • Starting with a broadcast of the Knicks losing badly establishes a nice sense of realism. = +7pts 
  • Note to self: When building secret agency, there are probably more reliable ways to recruit agents than beating them half to death and dumping them in the harbor. = -3pts 
  • Upon waking up, Remo’s immediate reaction is to panic over the loss of his moustache: “What have you done to my face?!” = +5pts 
  • Stealing not only an ambulance, but the friendly cop from Die Hard’s ambulance. Wait a minute; is this the cop from Die Hard’s origin story? = +8pts 
  • Commenting on a football field sized room full of super computers: “These are the smaller ones.” = +3pts 
  • People who weren’t alive in the ‘80s cannot understand the soothing power of Wilford Brimley’s presence. = +5pts 
  • Warrrrrrrrgh….is this movie’s premise really about glorifying secret assassinations in the cause of preserving American values? Bleeding heart…of score technician…rupturing… = -17pts 
  • “Remember: in, out. Like a duck mating.” Ok, wait. Wait, please. We know we’re in the middle of an important plot point here, but let’s stop, because we’re curious. Out of all the things in the world that could pop into your mind while thinking about sex, you thought about ducks. Is that just what happened here? Would you care to explain? We’d be really interested in hearing about your past. = +9pts 
  • Joel Grey is a great actor and all, but – no, we’ll stop there. There’s nothing – no – don’t try – we can feel you trying to make excuses for Joel Grey made up as a Korean, but no – no no no no no. = -20pts 
  • Chiun and Remo’s initial fight scene. = +12pts 
  • So, you let an agent destroy your apartment every time you begin his training? = +3pts 
  • We love how computers in ‘80s movies display all files as if they were pre-loaded PPT slide shows. =+3pts 
  • “You move like a pregnant yak.” =+2pts 
  • Whoah, we’re getting a lot of Fred Ward meat in those sweatpants there. = -5pts 
  • Looking at our computers' settings now to figure out how we can get a big, red, flashing SECURITY BREACH message to display whenever we receive another damn Adobe Flash update request. = +2pts 
  • “Professional assassination is the highest form of public service.” = -13pts 
  • The fake soap opera Chiun watches. = +6pts 
  • “Watches are a confidence trick invented by the Swiss.” = +7pts 
  • Training by dangling from a Ferris wheel; no one in the park cares. = +5pts 
  • Remo and Chiun winning the stuffed pink panther together. = +4pts 
  • Diving through a sand pile, shooting out the top, running on air. = +4pts 
  • Villain cleans rifle while surrounded by cases of rifles. Also paintings of rifles. = +6pts 
  • Delinquent Statue of Liberty construction workers. = +3pts 
  • Guy who drowns in cement at the base of the Statue of Liberty. = +10pts 
  • Did Wilford Brimley’s character really just refer to Chiun as “slant-eyed?” We need to have a national conversation to heal from this. = -7pts 
  • Halfway through the movie and we’re finally noticing the biggest plot hole: why doesn’t CURE just ask Chiun to do Remo’s job? = -3pts 
  • The whole doberman sequence. = +12pts 
  • Why are there rats on a high window ledge? And why do they want to be in Remo’s pants? = +3pts 
  • Sinanju must include conjuring ziplines at opportune moments. = +3pts 
  • Mount Promise? That’s what I got from my wife on our wedding night, and I’m still waiting! Hey, hey! STOP THROWING THINGS! = -2pts 
  • Using a bad guy’s diamond-embedded tooth to cut your way out of a pressurized chamber. = +16pts 
  • Expression on the face of the technician who walks into his destroyed lab. = +2pts 
  • You know what, let’s go ahead and insult both women and Koreans in the same scene. That’ll play great 30 years in the future! = -8pts 
  • Father/son bond between Remo and Chiun because why? = -2pts 
  • Villains switch to chasing only Remo at the end because why? = -2pts 
  • Military camp forest is filled with mysteriously moving trees because why? = -2pts 
  • And stacks of logs in the most dangerous possible places because why? Well, we’ll allow it because it’s good for some cool looking destruction. = +2pts 
  • Starting a fire with only your thumb, forefinger, and a twig. = +6pts 
  • And the adventure has begun! Now for the thrilling second chapter. Hello? Hello? We’ve been sitting in a dark theatre for 30 years…hello? = -7pts
Total Score: +53pts
Available on: Netflix, Youtube

We remember enjoying Remo Williams as kids, wondering why the adults around us called it names like “turkey” and “flop.” After watching it again, we’re still not totally sure why it failed so hard. It’s no more juvenile than other James Bond films that Guy Hamilton directed, like The Man with the Golden Gun, and like many James Bond films, it doesn’t take itself seriously. But even though we think he’s the bee’s knees, unlike the actors who played James Bond, Fred Ward has a pretty limited appeal. Remo isn’t meant to be charming, and he has a pretty vague and uncompelling mandate from the secret agency he works for. Root out corruption? Preserve freedom and security? Take down bad guys who engage in shady arms deals? Little kids could buy that premise, but adults were probably hard-pressed to swallow it. Of course, those same adults had just re-elected a president who would engage in his own shady arms deals, and then a couple decades later, the adults would cheerfully give the President and his secret agencies unlimited power to preserve freedom and security, but you know, that’s real life, and Remo Williams is just a goofy story.

We’ve evolved as a society in at least one way since this movie’s release, though: we know now that yellowface casting and/or whitewashing is wrong. At least we’ve come that far.

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