“Well, well,” says the bad guy, “if it ain’t the walkin’ chop-o-matic.” That’s about the extent of the wit in Blind Fury, a new film about a very talented swordsman.
The walking chop-o-matic is a guy named Nick (what else?), who lost his eyesight in a mortar attack in Vietnam. Taken in by some mystically-oriented villagers, Nick was taught how to “see” despite his blindness, and how to handle a major-league sword. When the story picks up in the present day, Nick is searching for an old Army buddy who is in trouble.
Nick takes his buddy’s son under his wing, and they go on a cross-country search for the father. They’re followed by thugs the entire time, but Nick – who can split a dragonfly in two just by listening for the buzz – is up to the challenge.
The movie is an excuse to mount enough fights to satisfy the crowd that supports kung fu movies, and to let Nick, played by Dutch star Rutger Hauer, show off some fancy swordsmanship. Martial-arts superstar Sho Kosugi makes a cameo appearance, and the movie also throws in ex prizefighter Randall “Tex” Cobb, who does his usual brawly schtick.
By now you’re probably wondering: A blind swordsman? What will they think of next? Well, actually, they didn’t even think of it this time; Blind Fury is based on a popular series of Japanese films about a blind samurai. This film doesn’t wear its cross-cultural pollination very well, as it veers between zen absurdity and redneck head-stompin’. Even the jokes seem like an awkward translation, except for two diverting low-life henchmen, who are so stupid they wind up knocking each other off.
Overall it’s pretty routine. I expected more from the director, Philip Noyce, an Australian who has displayed a thoughtful touch elsewhere (his previous film was the snappy Dead Calm). He doesn’t belong here.
First published in the Herald, March 17, 1990
I have to believe this review was cut for space, because it seems short, and I didn’t say anything about Rutger Hauer. The cast includes Terry O’Quinn, Lisa Blount, and Meg Foster. Someday ask me about the time I shared a 90-minute car ride with Philip Noyce from the Gdansk airport to a film festival in Bydgoszcz, without exchanging a word of conversation.