What do you get when you mix up Rutger Hauer, a sword disguised as a cane, John Locke from Lost, that huge biker dude from Raising Arizona, a whole armoury of high artillery, several car chases and enough 80’s looney toons action aesthetics to fuel a bus? You get Phillip Noyce’s Blind Fury of course, one of the best and most entertaining action films of the era. Hauer is Nick Parker, a blind Viet Nam vet who was trained in a small village and knows the ways of the sword, better than some people who still have their eyesight in fact. He’s back stateside looking for his old army buddy (Terry O’Quinn), who has been captured by a nasty Reno crime kingpin played by Noble WillingHAM who never passed by an opportunity to ham up a performance royally because look it’s right there in his name. After O’Quinn’s poor wife (a short lived Meg Foster) is murdered by his thugs, Nick takes unofficial custody of their young son (Brandon Call) and sets out for bloody revenge against the Ham and his weirdo cohorts, which include two rambunctious cowboys (Nick Cassavetes and Rick Overton) and one giant ugly son of a bitch called Slag, played by perennial Brick-house henchman Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb. Hauer brings a lighthearted charm to the carnage, a vibe that sneaks into the film as a whole and makes it something more fun and cartoonish despite it being violent as all fuck. It’s funny when you consider that director Noyce (Dead Calm, The Saint, Patriot Games, The Bone Collector) usually accents his thrillers with a somber tone. Here it’s all fun and games, Rutger gets one of his most playful and humorous roles, portraying a blind guy convincingly, doing a great job with the stunts and showing what a dope leading man he was. One particular sequence I love best is an epic highway chase with Overton and Cassavetes who are just two bickering, brawling morons. It’s a jacked up, GTA style slice of explosive escapism as jeeps, vans and cars careen all about the overpass and you can really see the budget blowing up onscreen, it’s a showcase 80’s vehicular smackdown. Great film.
Who doesn’t love Ron Howard’s Willow? Hopefully nobody, because it’s a brilliant fantasy classic that’s aged like the finest wine. From a story by George Lucas (vague Ewok vibes abound), it’s just a rollicking picture, oriented towards the little ones whose sense of wonder hasn’t dimmed, yet eager to include a very real sense of danger and darkness, the perfect recipe to make a film like this noteworthy and nostalgic. In a village inhabited solely by dwarf-like creatures, a secret has been unearthed by the family of young would-be sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis). In their little Hobbitsville of a town on the edge of a vast fantastical realm, a human infant has floated down river like Moses, a special child with the power to defeat a nefariously evil witch (Jean Smart) who has terrorized the land for ages. After the baby attracts danger to their village, the council gives Willow the task of bringing the child out into the world so it can fulfill it’s potential and bring goodness back to the realm. So begins a dazzling big budget journey into the heart of sword and sorcery darkness, a well woven blend of humour, heart and magic that is never short of thrills or visual splendour. Val Kilmer steals the show as rambunctious Madmartigan, a fiercely funny rogue of a warrior who protects and guides Willow through a harsh, threatening world, while Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton score comic relief points as two pint size little pixie things with vaguely European accents, which they use to hurl many a colourful insult in Kilmer’s general direction. Val’s real life wife Joanne Whalley plays sultry Sorshia, daughter to the villainous queen and badass beautiful warrior princess with dark sex appeal for days. There’s just so much to love about this film, from the wildly boisterous score by James Horner that gets our pulses up, the gorgeous production design and attention to detail, the story itself full of wondrous magic and peril, to the reliance on practical effects as per the times. It’s adorable that the filmmakers went out of their way to cast hordes of actual little people as opposed to relying on camera trickery, right down to Willow’s tiny, impossibly cute dwarf children. Highlights I will always remember from this one are the impressively staged sled race down a snowy peak using shields as careening vehicles and the surprisingly gory attack from giant worm/gorilla hybrid creatures that seriously disturbed seven year old Nate for years after. You simply can’t go wrong with this one.