Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Evening with the Williams Boys, Evan and Remo

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... (1985) Rated PG

Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon 86 Proof

I didn’t even realize that this film and booze combo shared a surname until about 20 minutes into the movie. After a long day of work, my brain works like this:
“Movie. Whiskey.”
After a whiskey, my brain works like this:
“Movie: Remo Williams. Whiskey: Evan Williams. HEY, they share a surname!”
And as if the name pairing wasn’t enough, they turned out to be a great combo. Evan Williams is one of the best low budget bourbons, it sells for $11.70 a fifth at Fuller’s Package Store in Orleans. In Kentucky it sold for about $10. A dollar seventy price difference from Louisville to Cape Cod is not bad, considering that other bourbons are $10 more a bottle here and gas is 20 cents cheaper right over the bridge.
Evan Williams is smooth almost to a fault. Its smoothness might come from a lack of flavor, but in its own right it has no bad qualities. Watery enough to remind you that it is cheap, smooth enough so as not to offend you. The first sip has just a touch of burn to it, then there is almost no burn or spice after that. Advanced whiskey drinkers might be turned off by the Williams’ lack of flavor, but its a perfect end of a long day sipper, when your tastebuds don’t really have the energy to be presented with anything too challenging. As I poured my first EW on the rocks, the rousing opening theme had me pretty excited to imbibe, and witness the beginnings of a franchise that never was. The theme music, by Craig Safan, has rhythmic gunshots, or fireworks exploding. It doesn’t get much more rousing than that.
We first meet a mustachioed Fred Ward as a police officer who is sitting in his cruiser listening to some jammin’ contemporary R and B (“Janet” by The Commodores). He has a Miss Piggy coffee cup holder, as well. Cool dude. Ward beats up some street thugs who are beating up on a guy. The thugs turn out to be in cahoots, as the guy they were beating up turns on Ward and they all beat him up. He goes to his patrol car to call for help, but a dump truck, driven by a maniacal laughing black guy, pushes his cruiser into the Hudson River.
Ward wakes up sans mustache in a hospital room. The same black guy, Conn MacLeary, who pushed him into the river tells him that his death has been faked and that they made a few “adjustments” to him while he was knocked out. Ward immediately checks his package. I would have done the same thing. It is then explained that they only changed his face, ie: removed his fake mustache. His new name is Remo Williams, and he has to work for a shadowy government organization now. Remo nods along, then escapes. Reginald Vel-Johnson, everyone’s favorite bi-sexual cop, makes an early appearance as the EMT whom Remo ambulance-jacks. He can’t escape for long, as Conn MacLeary gets him and leads him to the secret control center of C.U.R.E. (It is never explained what the acronym stands for and I can’t find an explanation anywhere on the net. Not anywhere, but the first two google entries for a “Remo Williams C.U.R.E.” search. What do you think I do, sit around in my soiled underwear all day hungover as hell looking up stupid stuff on the internet? Far from it, friend, farrrrr from it.)
Fans of Wilford Brimley, and I know you are out there, will be pleased to know that everyone’s favorite Oats salesman plays the head of the C.U.R.E. organization. Brimley has an extremely advanced computer that thinks for itself and speaks in different voices. After Remo cracks wise to Brimley he says “The Computer said you were a smart ass!”
Remo is basically the cleanup man for America, he is to get all the bad guys who can’t be taken down publicly. He is given his first assignment to kill a bad guy and Conn MacCleary, the black guy who pushed his car into the Hudson, says he will have to be “In and out, like a duck mating.”
Remo enters the building and we are introduced to Chiun, a little invincible Korean man that Remo tries to kill, but can’t. He is played by Joel Gray, which is an odd casting choice, and some might even say racist, but he does a great job. Chiun can dodge bullets and when he does karate chop moves, it makes a lazer sound. Chiun beats up Remo, then Conn enters and we realize that Chiun will train Remo to turn him into a super-ninja.
The training scenes consist of Remo endlessly getting his butt kicked by Chiun as the old man makes excellent constructive criticism of Remo’s performance like “You move like a pregnant yak!”
One of the most interesting details in the training scenes is that Chiun knows the secret “20 Steps to Bring a Woman to Ecstasy”, of which he says he only needs to use 7 and he only teaches Remo one. He also informs Remo that “Professional assassination is the highest form of public service.”
The main bad guy, Grove, is an evil military contractor. This is where the film shows itself to be politically pretty left wing, especially for an action film made in the gung-ho 80s. The idea that military contractors are running this country into the ground wasn’t exactly mainstream 23 years ago, although today it couldn’t be more apparent. Grove is trying to sell the government something called HARP, an obvious take-off on the Star Wars program that Reagan loved and dimwitted Donald Rumsfeld pushed on us until his top ranking generals forced him to resign due to “dismal planning.”
This film is in many ways a spiritual ancestor of the radical Steven Seagal “message” films of the 90s, (“On Deadly Ground” and “Fire Down Below”). Big business is seen as pure evil, with its tentacles reaching high up into the government. The heroes are shown to be mystery men who have been trained in the ways of the east. New Age action for the liberal ass kicker, I suppose.
This is a really fun movie and having a good buzz going only made it more enjoyable for me. It contains some pretty advanced ideas, offset by its “gee whiz” goofy demeanor. The CURE members have to kill themselves if they fail, as Brimley says “The main goal here is to not embarrass the President.” This must have been before everyone in America has just accepted that the President is a moron anyway. I wonder how many secret agents had to kill themselves before Bush went on to show the world how much of a buffoon he is. Although, he always seemed like a buffoon, didn’t he?
They obviously wanted to turn this into a series, as this film is called “The Adventure Begins...” and I wish they had made more of these. I imagine its fairly radical, left leaning undertones alienated alot of people who were looking for another Rambo, Norris- styled meat and potatoes hero. This movie is light on violence (although there is one incredible, violent scene involving a diamond studded tooth), and high on fun. I found the Williams boys, Evan and Remo to be great companions for an enjoyable evening.

1 comment:

jomilkman said...

underappreciated and not very well-known, though they do play it on the movie channels from time to time.

it's a pretty epic score, isn't it?