MGM // 1985 // 121 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 1st, 2003
Adventure has a new name
He was an ordinary beat cop until a bizarre mugging rendered him nearly dead. After some plastic surgery and a few twists by the American government, our hero wakes up as Remo Williams (Fred Ward, Tremors), freedom fighter for the American way! Though his old life may be over, Remo's new life is just beginning -- when two top secret agents (Willford Brimley and J.A. Preston) enlist him in a covert operation, Remo finds himself up to his eyeballs in conspiracies and guns. However, before he can become a lethal killing machine, Remo must train with the elderly Chiun (Joel Grey) and learn how to dodge bullets, walk on water, and eat lots of rice. When a corrupt millionaire devises a plot that involves the military, faulty army weapons, and a bunch of hoopla like that, it's up to Remo Williams to save the day!
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... is somewhat of an oddity from the 1980s: based on "The Destroyer" book series by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy, the film was apparently meant as the starting point for an action adventure franchise. Unfortunately, it never clicked with audiences, and as of 1985 there hasn't been another Remo Williams adventure. [Editor's Note: Correction. There was a 1987 direct-to-video sequel, Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues!, starring Roddy McDowall and Jeffrey Meek in place of Joel Grey and Fred Ward, respectively.] Could it be that the filmmakers and producers were a bit too optimistic about its success? (The answer, by the way, is an unqualified "yes.") While Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... isn't regarded as an action classic, it is mildly entertaining, due in no small part to the performances by Fred Ward as Remo and Joel Grey as his quirky Korean master, Chiun. While Ward is amiable and funny as Williams, Grey all but steals the picture out from under him with his deadpan wit, goofy posture, and assumption that American soap operas are truly works of art (interestingly enough, Grey isn't really Asian: he's buried under pounds of heavy make-up). Less interesting is the plot that surrounds these characters: something about a rich bad guy, a military weapon and its cover-up, and other such nonsense. Frankly, I wasn't really paying much attention. Director Guy Hamilton is able to wring some suspense from semi-grand set pieces, such as Remo dangling from the Statue of Liberty or attempting to outrun land mine explosions in a forest. It's all pretty silly stuff, and yet on some level it works: though the film clocks in at over two hours long, it never felt like drudgery to watch. Movie fans will want to keep one eye open for cameos by Reginald VelJohnson (who would go onto better action movies like Die Hard and its sequel), character actor William Hickey (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie), and a young Kate Mulgrew (Capt. Janeway of TV's Star Trek Voyager). And what movie isn't given a little boost by the presence of veteran actor Wilford Brimley (John Carpenter's The Thing) and his super thick moustache? Though the adventure may not have continued past the mid 1980s, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... is still worth checking out if you've got nothing better to do on a Friday night.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... is presented in a lackluster 1.33:1 full frame version. While Remo Williams isn't great eye candy, it's still a shame to see any movie chopped and reworked into a pan and scan version. As it stands, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... looks only so-so with the colors and black levels in decent condition and a small amount of grain present in the picture. Because the budget for this film wasn't on par with something like Lethal Weapon, the transfer tends to suffer from a fairly flat and lifeless look. I'm a very disappointed by MGM's treatment of many of their catalog releases; some are full frame, others non anamorphic...come on guys, get with the program! The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround in English. Much like the video transfer, there's not a lot that's impressive in this mix -- the dialogue, effects, and music are all clear of most distortion and hiss, and that's about it. Surround sounds and directional effects have been kept to the bare minimum (i.e., you're gonna get squat). Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
It comes as no surprise that there aren't any substantial extra features on this disc: all that's been included is a full frame theatrical trailer for the film.
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer