Movies from the 90s were known for two genres: action and comedy. Cops on high alert ready for a drug bust after prolonged detective work only to discover they’ve got the wrong guy. Childhood friends growing up in the suburbs try to make it in the big city, only to wreak havoc in their idiosyncratic and hyperbolic ways. From making you laugh to filling you with suspense, there was no shortage of movies. The two genres were so inseparable that they combined the best of both worlds. Instead of procedural crime dramas and fun, funny antics, audiences got the buddy cop. Not too serious, not too silly, just seriously funny.
kindergarten cop gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger teaching toddlers how to be tough like a Terminator, Ace Ventura: animal detective gave us Jim Carrey solving wild capers with serendipitous and auspicious bravado, and Beverly Hills Ninja gave us Chris Farley pursuing his love of martial arts one trial and error at a time. An actor who makes the leap into action-comedy and pulls off the landing (and a few henchmen!) is Rutger Hauer in blind fury. This love letter to the Japanese Zatoichi The samurai film series flopped at the box office, but memorable swordplay moments still hold to make this an essential ’90s action-comedy.
stupid sixth sense
Blinded during the Vietnam War by a mortar explosion, Nick Parker becomes an MIA and learns to sharpen his senses as a true Blade Runner by the local villagers. Rather than giving in to his handicap as a weakness, the Vietnamese gives him hope and humanity. The short training montage was endearing and inspiring, one that rids the world of excuses and replaces them with methodical action. Hauer was well known for his character roles and portrayed a blind man (blind martial artist, Lynn Manning, to be exact) convincingly.
He admitted that blind fury was one of her most challenging roles for her use of body language. Redirecting one’s senses, learning and unlearning them, is not an easy task to convey on screen. Reinventing and normalizing an impediment like blindness was a remarkable creative tool for the genre, emphasizing the comic and the tragic. The seasoned Dutch actor gives it an optimistic and authentic scope.
Nick returns to the United States after learning that his war friend Frank Devereaux (Terry O’Quinn) is alive. At the home of Frank’s ex-wife Lynn (Meg Foster) and their son Billy (Brandon Call), mobsters attack, killing her in a failed attempt to kidnap Billy. His dying wish is for Nick to take Billy to see his father in Reno, Nevada, where he is forced to manufacture drugs for casino crime boss Claude MacCready (Noble Willingham).
Throughout the film, the “accidental” maneuvers and choreography were precise, but never so close to feeling robotic. Replacing the white cane with a cane that doubles as a sword scabbard is ingenious. The way Nick uses the sword is an extension of himself. He does not want to fight you, as his humble origins remind him of the loyalty and honor he has received. If he has to fight you, it is from a place of defense to protect the lost natural order in a corrupt world. His sharp sense of humor never fails to see right through you. Not bad for a blind man.
Strong men are not afraid to cry
Some balk at the sentimental in action movies. It’s understandable, there’s no time to blow your nose when the bad guy needs a blow. Others see the action as a rushing, out-of-control gyroscope spiraling out of control. There’s plenty to keep our attention, but if too much is going on then we get overstimulated and the excitement quickly becomes overwhelming or worse, boring. blind fury takes his time and wastes no time.
The disreputable henchmen, including the hulking Slag (played by heavyweight boxer and martial artist, Randall “Tex” Cobb), aren’t just mindless puppets. They come to the screen with their own colorful personalities. Sho Kosugi, the Japanese actor who popularized ninjas in the 1980s, plays the hitman, adding another layer of authenticity to the modern martial arts film. The interactions between Nick and Billy are heartfelt and irreverent; a fun push and pull between old and young. Billy sees what he doesn’t know and needs Nick’s wisdom. Nick knows what it’s like to see innocence through Billy’s eyes and learns to be young at heart again.
blind fury puts us in the footsteps of a blind man, seeing what he sees, knowing what he knows. Best of all, the writing is crisp enough to cut a cantaloupe into four quadrants. Memorable lines complete an action comedy. Simple but salient lines like “Unreasonable men make life so hard” and “I practice circumcision too.” blind fury is equal parts action and comedy like a strong man who isn’t afraid to cry.