Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.”
The Movie: “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins”
Starring: Fred Ward, Joel Grey, Wilford Brimley
Director: Guy Hamilton
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) An officially “dead” cop is trained to become an extraordinary unique assassin in service of the U.S. President.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39 percent
Brown: Doing requests has gotten us in plenty of trouble on the JOE-DOWN.
Case in point, because of a mutual friend of Froemming and I, we ended up reviewing THREE (REDACTED) seasons of “Fuller House.” This is as good a time as any to remind our audience that I hate Kyle Stevens and that he’s history’s greatest monster.
But for months now, my high-school friend Therese has badgered me repeatedly to review this week’s selection “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.”
… And it’s also where the adventure ends, because there was never a direct sequel. That kind of questionable title fits right in with last week’s movie, “Assault on Precinct 13,” which didn’t take place at Precinct 13.
I dunno, I guess Therese and her fiance Jack made this movie appointment pandemic watching? Because we all know that movies that have an American answer to James Bond and a white guy playing a Korean are for lovers.
So Froemming, while I completely change my appearance by *checks notes* shaving… give me your first thoughts.
Froemming: We need to stop taking requests.
Also, this movie is basically as offensive as the time Jeff and Pierce did their Spanish presentation:
This movie, to quote Chang, gets an F-.
I had never heard of this movie. And I wish that was still the case. Though, and we will get to it, I think Tarantino pilfered some of the plot for “Kill Bill Vol. 2.” Though, at least, that foot-freak didn’t have a white guy dress as a Chinese man.
Also, I did not realize all plastic surgery in the 1980s was shaving off your mustache.
Brown, as I scale down the Statue of Liberty while cursing your high school friends, why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: So this movie opens with a nondescript cop named, according to Wikipedia, Sam Makin. He’s sitting by New York Harbor (that place where Tom Hanks turned into a mermaid), listening to Marv Albert call a Knicks game and stuffing greasy food down his gullet like every NYC cop did in the 1970s, if I’m to believe cinema at the time.
All of a sudden, there’s a trio of people running by, which catches Sam’s attention. That eventually ends up with the three toughs trying to take down Sam, only for our super cop to thwart their efforts.
I mean, shit, Sam (REDACTED) killed a man with a fridge door!
Froemming: He was protecting the city! #BlueLivesMatter
Brown: Yes, by crushing the skull of the one black person on the scene like a watermelon at a Gallagher show…
After committing murder in the name of justice (or something), Sam goes back in his car. But, as he does that, a man in a garbage truck (I think) runs Sam and his car into the harbor, leaving him for dead.
Or so we think…
Froemming: He wakes up in a hospital bed, claiming his face looks different and is also told he has been recruited into a secret government agency by a man named Agent Conn ‘Mac’ MacCleary. Which is a very weird way to recruit someone, by nearly killing them and shaving off their mustache and calling that “plastic surgery.” We also learn he is a Vietnam War veteran, and that is one of the reasons he was recruited.
Look, he isn’t very smart. He isn’t in the best shape. He barely fought off three street toughs. Why exactly has he been recruited? This guy is a few years away from Mitchell sadness.
Brown: Remo Williams is also named after a bedpan. You know, the place where the infirmed take a shit because they can’t get out of their hospital bed. It’s not a great origin story, but at least it’s not the Batman Crime Alley origin. At this point, I’ve probably killed Batman’s parents.
Remo initially wants nothing to do with this secret agency, so he escapes the hospital and steals an ambulance. This upset EMT Al Powell, who probably took this moment to leave that line of work to become an LAPD officer. Later, he’d assist some bare-footed lunatic NYC cop when Nakatomi Plaza got taken over.
Froemming: He will always be Urkel’s neighbor to me.
Remo does not get very far, because Mac is somehow in the ambulance. How did he predict Remo would grab that one? No idea, if he picked the wrong ambulance, Mac would have been in for a long night.
Anywho, Mac brings Remo to the real star of this movie: Wilford Brimley, who plays CURE Director Harold Smith. Though, he would move on to higher levels of government and politics:
Smith gives us some malarky about CURE being a special intelligence organization for only the president, which after looking through the constitution, I could find no mention of the president being allowed this sort of power.
Brown: It was the Reagan ‘80s. We were fighting the war on drugs and giving money to the Contras. I’m sure somewhere in that mess, Reagan got the power to run a shadow group of assassins.
Also, the way this movie was like “We’re run by the President” had the same conviction Moe had when he told the world his favorite football team was the Atlanta Falcons.
So Mac drives Remo to his first assignment, which is some poorly lit apartment building in New York. When Remo walks through the front (REDACTED) door, he comes across a frail, old Korean man. Only, this Korean man can dodge bullets with … snail-like speed while leaning around like Michael Jackson in the “Smooth Criminal” music video.
Froemming: Let’s also mention that this Korean man is played by Academy Award winning white guy Joel Grey. Not since we watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” have I been this disturbed by white-guys-playing-racist-stereotypes in a movie. Well, we still haven’t watched “Short Circuit” yet.
This character is named Master Chiun, who is testing Remo to see if he can train him like Pai Mei trained Beatrix Kiddo, minus all the trudging water up and down steps.
Brown: Chiun was incapacitating Remo with a mere tap of his fingers. I figured either he was going to cause Remo’s head to explode like in “Fist of the North Star” or he was going to teach Remo the Touch of Death.
Turns out, we got none of those things. Instead, Remo learns how to tight-rope walk and other cool-but-not-as-cool things.
Froemming: Not only that, this training is long, boring and takes up a whole bunch of this movie. The only thing we really learn is Remo has a crappy diet and Chiun loves soap operas and hates America.
Brown: Look, us Americans have done some shitty things in the world. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let any man, let alone a master of Sinanju, bad-mouth hamburgers! Between that and, later, his straight-up misogyny, screw Chiun.
Froemming: I’d call you racist for that, but he is played by a white guy, which makes this all the more awful. A white guy from Cleveland, Ohio.
Brown: As someone who visited Cleveland a month ago, it’s as boring as everyone makes it out to be. At least it’s not as lame as Indianapolis.
Froemming: I live in North Dakota, so I will refrain from throwing rocks in this glass house of mine.
Brown: Anyways, Remo’s future target is a weapons tycoon named George Grove. His greed is making him, among other things, cut corners on military weaponry. The most glaring example is the AR-60, which blows up in a man’s face and kills him during basic training. It’s the most tragic training accident since that grunt died while preparing to fight the space bugs in “Starship Troopers.”
Brown: Major Rayner Fleming is doing oversight on Grove, only to notice that she can’t get access to info on the AR-60.
A man of wealth and power, Grove wants to rattle Fleming’s cage so she’ll stop snooping around. So in order to do this discreetly, he enlists the help of a man with *checks notes* a diamond in his tooth.
And before anyone asks: No, it wasn’t Lenny. His tooth diamond got stolen.
Froemming: Grove is also building some doodad for the Star Wars program, which was a real idea the Reagan administration came up with. The idea was to shoot down missiles from space. Back in the good old days when we thought a foreign army would destroy America, instead of today where the stupid people in our country are doing a pretty solid job of that.
Remo, meanwhile, is learning how to walk on top of things for some reason, not learning how to actually fight or anything. Mac asks Chiun when Remo will be ready and is told in about 15 years.
This is America, damnit! We want results, and we want them now!
Brown: Their glaring character flaws aside, I did have fun with the dynamic of Remo and especially Chiun. They made a good odd couple that played well off of each other, which is a little surprising since Fred Ward doesn’t exactly ooze charisma in this role.
Case in point, I laughed too hard at the scene at the pier where Chiun wins a giant Pink Panther plush on a game of rings. As they walk away, hand-in-hand with the Pink Panther, Chiun turns to Remo and tells him “Don’t forget, I won this.” It’s downright wholesome. The opposite of flying a kite at night.
On one day of training, Remo and Chiun end up hanging out at the top of the Statue of Liberty. You know, that big woman that the Ghostbusters partied with!
Froemming: See, Remo was somehow followed after an altercation with Diamond Tooth, the worst Bond villain of all time. Old Diamond Tooth finds out he is on top of Lady Liberty and hires some construction workers to *checks notes* kill a man in cold blood!
I knew New Yorkers can be a cranky bunch, but I didn’t think their construction crews were so short on cash they are killers for hire like in a “John Wick” movie.
Brown: Am I wrong, or did these construction workers get all of $30 from Ol’ Diamond Tooth? Are we to assume that for these three men, all it took was $10 to want to commit murder?!
Froemming: It was a rough economy in Reagan’s America.
Anyway, Chiun leaves Remo to find his way down the statue to confront his fear of heights. Only, for this all seeing, all knowing guy to not realize some hired goons are going after his pupil.
And these goons, you know I like the term “chucklehead,” well these are literal chuckleheads as they are idiots who just can’t stop laughing. Seriously, were they hit with The Joker’s toxic laughing gas?
Brown: I wrote in my notes that they were laughing like the evil hyenas in “The Lion King.”
And you would think that with all of Remo’s training on how to tip-toe on small platforms would be useful while walking along the scaffolding at the remodeled Statue of Liberty? Nope. It’s mostly a lot of rope swinging like a bloated Indiana Jones.
The coolest thing that happens in this sequence is when Remo gets to ground level, he tip-toes across fresh cement. When one of the hired goons goes after him, he not only falls into a pool of wet cement… he drowns in wet cement.
Froemming: Chiun hears a gunshot and realizes he has shit the bed here, and goes to help. And he does, as the last of the goons is about to pop a shot at Remo and he uses his weird sounding martial arts on the guy. Chiun has a weird ass “Six Million Dollar Man” sound effect when he does his thing and it is very off putting.
Back at CURE headquarters, Smith realizes they might be compromised by Grove, and if they can’t get this under control, they will have to Cobain themselves so as to not embarrass the president.
Brown: Because you don’t (REDACTED) with Bonzo, Froemming.
Also, when are we reviewing “Bedtime for Bonzo?”
ALSO, Wilford Brimley refers to Chiun as Remo’s “slant-eyed little buddy”…
Froemming: Oh, I’m sorry, are you just realizing this movie has a racism problem? Too many years of watching the WWE might do that.
Well, the team has one more option before killing themselves, and that is to get some evidence about Grove’s HARP program or something.
This is the part of the movie that was all at night, making it invisible to me as I watched this at the gym on my phone. All I heard was dogs barking, mice and Remo saying “sunofabitch” a bunch of times.
Brown: That’s a shame because this was the most ludicrous part of the movie.
Remo is being chased by guard dogs, but seems to find some relief when he climbs on top of a catwalk. He, however, didn’t count on this pack of doberman pinschers knowing how fire escape stairs work!
Or, when Remo does a tight-rope walk over an alley, he didn’t count on a dog ALSO tight-rope walking.
I mean, watch this, the dogs are bonkers!
I’m surprised they didn’t start shooting bees out of their mouths. And yes, I’m going for a JOE-DOWN record for “Simpsons” references today. Hell, Froemming hasn’t even gotten in a “Seinfeld” reference yet!
Froemming: What are you talking about? I got one in when Wilford Brimley was introduced.
Brown: The one link I don’t watch and I’m made to look the fool. I’ll keep this here so we can all laugh at my hubris.
I am not sure what happened, because I couldn’t see a damn thing, but Remo and Mac get a doodad and try to escape. And a dog rips off Mac’s arm? Not sure what happened there, but Mac also gets shot, so this could be considered one of the worst days of his life. He gives Remo this frisbee and has him bring it to the boss man.
He is captured and then kills himself by cutting his oxygen tubes. Which, if he has the strength to do that, I imagine he can also breathe on his own, right?
Smith gets the frisbee and finds out the HARP is basically smoke and mirrors. It doesn’t exist and the thing Remo saw was just window dressing.
This movie is implying an American businessman is ripping off American taxpayers via the military industrial complex! This smells like COMMIE PROPAGANDA!
Brown: So this movie comes to a head at a military camp, where Fleming (Remember her?!) and Grove, among others, are attending. Grove tries blackmailing Fleming to no avail because she literally doesn’t know who Remo Williams is.
At the same time she’s walking away, Remo has infiltrated the base with the hopes of stopping Grove.
Working together, Remo and Fleming go to a base where apparently testing is going on, only to get trapped in a gas chamber. This seems to be working well as Fleming is passed out and Remo is on the verge of collapse.
But, in the biggest case of hubris since my outburst above, Ol’ Diamond Tooth decides to step into the gas chamber (with a gas mask) and beat up on Remo. But, Remo gains the upper hand and uses the diamond tooth to weaken the glass surrounding the room. He breaks the glass and the gas dissipates, giving Remo and Fleming a new lease on life.
Hey Diamond Tooth, the gas chamber idea would have worked if you followed one simple rule: the door MUST BE CLOSED!
This is when Fleming goes from a smart, independent female character into a raving Karen who will literally cream her shorts when Chiun touches her wrist. It is like they forgot what this character was.
As they make their way west, Fleming is yelling about all the forms she will fill out and give to the higher ups to punish Grove and his good-time buddies in the military. Then Remo hears something and is attacked by Chiun like this is the “Pink Panther” or something.
Now, Fleming meets Chiun, and we get all sorts of sexism AND racism since, again, Chiun is played by a white guy from Ohio. Who won an Academy Award in 1973 for “Cabaret.”
Brown: Yep, a white guy from Ohio dressed as a Korean dressed in a fur coat at all times outdoors like he’s about to attend a boxing match in Las Vegas.
Not to mention that Chiun commits sexual assault by, like you mentioned, making an unassuming Fleming cum with a touch of his fingers to her wrist.
Grove and co. catch up to Remo, who is *checks notes* hanging onto a log suspended in the air because reasons.
Eventually, Remo knocks down a bundle of logs onto the road where Grove and his men are driving, leading to the car driving off the road in a hilariously bad edit. Who the hell was driving the car, Toonces?
Grove survives the crash and holds Remo up at gunpoint. Only now, Remo has apparently mastered Sinanju and can now dodge bullets with the speed of someone listening to a Fat Joe record.
Froemming: I suspect they are in the Matrix with all this bullet dodging.
Well, Remo throws Grove into the busted up truck, then with his fingers, he makes a small tree branch start fire (this is brand new and is weird to be brought in the end of a movie) and throws it to the ground, where there just happens to be a trail of gas leading to the truck.
And it explodes, somehow, killing Grove.
Which, his mission was to make this look like an accident. That is what all the training was about. But he just blows the guy up, in a very non-accident looking fashion. PICK A LANE MOVIE!
Brown: You’re asking for sense in a movie that has tight-rope walking dogs, instant orgasm finger pokes and, in the very next scene, Chiun running across water like one of those lizards on the National Geographic Channel.
To steal one of your bits again, Froemming, let Michael Bay help you on this:
Froemming: I’d argue it is less like a lizard on water and more like:
Let’s tightrope our way down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: This movie is riddled with problems, but I would actually recommend this. For all its flaws, it’s a stupid, fun action movie.
Froemming: Oh no, this is a terrible movie. It is a slog in the middle, nothing makes sense and thank goodness Fred Ward made up for this a few years later with “Tremors.”
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: