Fred Ward and Joel Grey (who received a Golden Globe nomination for his supporting role, while his make up and prosthetics were nominated for an Oscar in the makeup category) bring the action novel series, The Destroyer to the big screen in a film directed by 007 alumni, Guy Hamilton with a script by another Bond alumnus, Christopher Wood, who wrote both The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker.
Hamilton rewrote a portion of it on set (to include the Statue of Liberty fight sequence) and was one of those responsible for petitioning for Grey to take on the role of the ancient Korean instructor, Chiun – is it whitewashing if he’s under layers of makeup and prosthetics? My gut says yes, but you can’t deny he’s good in the role.
Ward plays a New York cop who is entrapped, beaten, and supposedly killed, all to recruit him into a top secret organisation, that is run by Smith (Wilford Brimley) and assisted by MacCleary (J.A. Preston). They work above the law, and with his face remade, his identity erased, the cop becomes Remo Williams. With Chiun as his trainer in the secret art of Shianju, Remo becomes an unstoppable weapon, just in time to take on the film’s baddie.
It seems someone is getting government contracts for weapons creation, but none of the weapons created work, and in fact, prove to be very dangerous for the soldiers who handle them. Working inside the services is Major Rayner Fleming (Kate Mulgrew) – another nod to the Bond films, and she soon finds herself teaming up with Remo and Chiun on an army base as things start to go south.
Frequently funny, and with fun action sequences Remo Williams never seemed to find its audience, despite the countless books in the series, and that’s unfortunate, because I would have loved a sequel. There was even a television series attempted, but it never got past the pilot. Maybe it’s time to revisit that.
I remember reading a slew of The Destroyer books when I was a teen, and was aware there was a movie coming. They’re very much thrillers of the pulp variety, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t fun. And it’s an incredibly long running series!
This one ends up being a missed opportunity, as the leading cast are all terrific, and very much seem to be in on the fact that this one is just supposed to be fun. Now that I’ve watched it (for the first time in decades) I want to turn around and watch it again immediately. It’s just fun.
And it features a great score by Craig Safan!