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The Best Movie You Never Saw: Blind Fury

Welcome to The Best Movie You NEVER Saw, a column dedicated to examining films that have flown under the radar or gained traction throughout the years, earning them a place as a cult classic or underrated gem that was either before it’s time and/or has aged like a fine wine.

This week we’ll be looking at BLIND FURY!

THE STORY: Blinded during a wartime accident, a Vietnam veteran, Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer), tracks down an old war buddy only to realize he’s being held prisoner by a crime syndicate that’s coercing him into making designer drugs. When the buddy’s ex-wife is murdered and his son put in jeopardy, Nick springs into action, revealing his skill as a deadly master swordsman, to whom blindness is a mere inconvenience, and possibly an asset.

THE PLAYERS: Starring: Rutger Hauer, Terry O'Quinn, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Brandon Call and Sho Kosugi. Directed by Phillip Noyce.

THE HISTORY: BLIND FURY was one of the last studio attempts to mold Rutger Hauer into a mainstream action hero. For some reason, it never quite took, despite his clear charisma and above-average vehicles. An American remake/homage to the ZATOICHI series, BLIND FURY was actually produced by eighties leading man Tim Matheson (ANIMAL HOUSE), and the studio clearly had high hopes for spinning it off into a long running series. To that end, they were able to sign red-hot director Philip Noyce (post DEAD CALM, pre-PATRIOT GAMES) who’d soon leap onto the A-list.

'Blind Fury' was one of the most difficult jobs for me because of the combination with the swordplay. I'm glad it does not show. I mean that is was so difficult. Trained a month with a blind man who taught me his handicap. He was such a nice man. First thing he said was,"I don't get confused about what I see...". Then I trained every morning at 4:30 before shooting for those seven weeks. Then SHO KUSUGI was brought in for the swordplay. That was an additional shoot for a week or so. Wonderful. – Rutger Hauer – Official website 

In the end, the reviews were solid (two thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert), but TriStar, for whatever reason, only gave it a middling 353 screen release, meaning it tapped-out at the box office as just under $3 million. It eventually became a cult item on home video and cable, and Hauer – while never reaching A-list leading man status – went on to have a long career in DTV thrillers and actioners. Nevertheless, this turned out to be the only big screen adventure for blind swordsman Nick Parker.

WHY IT'S GREAT: I’ve always been a huge Rutger Hauer fan, but in some ways I can see why eighties audiences may not have warmed to him as an action star. The studios clearly tried to mold him in the Arnold Schwarzenegger-style persona, but Hauer was always too unconventional to accept pigeonholing. I’d argue he was also too intense for eighties-action junkies more interested in straightforward heroes, although I think his movies hold up better than a lot of his contemporaries due to the crazy method-like commitment he brought to each part. He’s like the Daniel Day-Lewis of the action genre, although to be sure, none of his action movies really took advantage of his talents, save THE HITCHER and this one, BLIND FURY.

I think BLIND FURY is my best action movie. – Rutger Hauer – All Those Moments: Stories of Heroes, Villains, Replicants, and Blade Runners.

Far above average for the genre, and running a tight eighty-five minutes, BLIND FURY is a great example of a B-actioner done right. Noyce, coming off of DEAD CALM, knew how to wring tension out of a scene, and anchored his film around Hauer’s charismatic, atypical performance, which seems closely patterned on Shintaro Katsu’s affable blind swordsman ZATOICHI, which is fitting as this is a licensed remake.

What I like about the character is that Nick Parker, as played by Hauer, is utterly free of pathos. I imagine that if a movie like BLIND FURY was made now with an actor like Tom Hardy, they’d spend a lot of time on the character brooding over his blindness. Here, Parker’s been blind for something like fifteen years, and is totally at peace with the fact. He doesn’t let it define him, and the fact that the plot revolves around him trying to rescue the buddy who accidentally blinded him during the war is kinda touching.

Hauer’s performance as a blind man, to me anyways, is crazy underrated. Sure, we all remember Al Pacino in SCENT OF A WOMAN, but Hauer’s much lower key and just as effective, rarely relying on the old Hollywood trick where the blind guy constantly wears dark glasses. And Pacino – as good as he was – never had to participate in complex, choreographed sword fights, while simultaneous posing as blind. Hauer makes it all look effortless, and you really believe him as the character. It’s a shame this wasn’t spawned into a series, as Hauer seemed willing.

It’s all elevated by Noyce’s direction, of course, with some nice darkly humorous touches, such as the ultimate fate of Randall “Tex” Cobb’s hulking henchman (stolen in THE PHANTOM MENACE?). Also look for future “Lost” star Terry O’Quinn as Hauer’s Nam buddy (sporting an unfortunate eighties skullet), while young Brandon Call is more than decent as the requisite child sidekick (being the eighties – he’s allowed to curse and be a brat – giving it a degree of realism).

BEST SCENE: All of the fight scenes are expertly choreographed and shot (I really miss this classical way of shooting action – with the editing not quite as ADD as it is now, and a camera that stays still), but the finale, where Hauer goes up against the great Sho Kosugi is a masterful bit of business. The fight only goes on for about two minutes, but Hauer’s persona, coupled with Kosugi’s moves and a good score by J. Peter Robinson, makes this a damn solid scene. Apparently it was added in reshoots. Good thing, as I couldn’t imagine the film without it.

SEE IT: BLIND FURY is available for rent or purchase on most digital platforms, like Amazon, iTunes and Google Play. It’s also available in a triple-bill Blu-ray collection called “Payback Time”, which also has the Chuck Norris vehicle SILENT RAGE (“science created him, now Chuck Norris must destroy him”), which, of course, makes it a must-own.

PARTING SHOT: Now, I’m not gonna go out on a limb and proclaim BLIND FURY as a lost action movie masterpiece, but it’s certainly one of the better eighties/nineties B-movie actioners, and a great showcase for Hauer. If you liked BLADE RUNNER, THE HITCHER and LADYHAWKE, give this one a go.


Source: JoBlo.com

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