First of all, a word about the poster (above). I don't like it. Way too much emphasis on the humor. Oh sure, the movie has plenty of humor (it's about a blind guy for fuck's sake), but the story, at its core, is deadly serious. I mean, yeah, sure there are scenes where Rutger Hauer, as blind swordsman Nick Parker, is fed a rock and told it's candy. Of course there's a scene where he drives a speeding van through Reno and another scene where the dealer tries to cheat him at the roulette table. Actually, several scenes are chock full of blind humor. Still, that poster is way too 80s for me. I require something a little more iconic for a film where a kid's mom (the blind looking Meg Foster) is murdered in the first ten minutes and so Nick Parker takes it upon himself to blindly transport the brat from Miami to Reno and reunite him with his father, who just happens to be Hauer's pal from vietnam. All the while, eluding hit man Randall "Tex" Cobb! No way is this a comedy.
This is one of Hauer's best roles. As Nick Parker, he's funny, good with a sword, and also blind. Convincingly blind. I think they gave him the contacts that Meg Foster wears. I hate when they make a movie about a blind guy and just hide his eyes behind sunglasses. This is one of the only pictures I can think of that actually starts off with a training montage. Parker is injured in Vietnam by an explosion that leaves him scarred and blinded. He's rescued by some friendly villagers who, besides nursing him back to health, teach him the way of the sword. Before we can say "Zatoichi" he's quartering four small airborne mellons in an instant. I didn't realize villagers in Vietnam War-era Nam were this accomodating. I loved how, instead of teaching the blind white foreign guy to work the fields or mend their straw huts, they teach him to become deadly proficient with a blade. It made me wonder if the villagers were blind as well. Cut to "20 years later" and Nick is back from the war, spending some quality time in a Miami dive bar. A few hooligans come up to him as he's eating his burrito with the friendly suggestion that he pour some hot sauce (i.e. the whole bottle) on it..."not bad. A little too mild for me. How about something a little more macho?" Then he "accidentaly" beats the shit out of them with his cane, issuing an apology with every thump.
In 'Nam, Parker served with a fellow named Deveraux (Terry O'Quinn aka John Locke of "Lost") and he decides to seek him out. Unbeknownst to him, Deveraux is currently being forced to produce a new drug out in Reno by some Mob Kingpin named MacCready (Noble Willingham). MacCready, for insurance purposes, sends his #1 guy Slag (Cobb) to kidnap Deveraux's wife and son. Unfortunately, for them, they arrive at the same time as Parker and a pretty great fight scene is the result. A couple lopped off limbs, some naughty words, and one dead Meg Foster later and Parker is off to Reno with young Billy (Brandon Call) to seek out the boy's father.
This kid, Billy, is a fucking little brat. He introduces himself to Parker with a middle finger and later, upon boarding a bus, tells him "I got the window seat, you don't need it." Along the way, they encounter mercenaries, more "Tex" Cobb, and several rednecks trying to impede their progress. Parker even cuts a dragonfly in half to impress some yahoos. It all culminates with a few fun encounters in Reno, followed by an epic battle atop Winterhaven, aka "Donner Pass". Actually, the end disappointed the shit out of me. Well, not really the end (as a whole), so much as the final battle. When I first saw this movie, upon release, it was because of Sho Kosugi not Rutger Hauer. Kosugi is that great martial artist you may remember from Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Pray for Death and, of course, Nine Deaths of the Ninja. Ok, so the guy was type cast throughout his brief movie career. As a ninja. Still, you can't have him billed in a movie and then show up at the end with no lines (other than the requisite ninja yell) and wearing a fucking suit! Put him in god damned ninja garb, that's all I fucking ask. And, for fuck's sake...please, for the love of Christ, do not give him a humiliating death in an electrified hot tub. They fucked it up. The finale of this thing left a mildly putrid taste in my mouth. At least Cobb got to go out like a man. I don't think Philip Noyce likes ninjas, or even knows what one is.
Oh yeah, almost forgot, this thing is directed by Philip Noyce. Noyce is known for directing one of my favorite Billy Zane movies of all time (Dead Calm) before moving on to bigger and better things; this thing, the best Jack Ryan movie, and the worst, Sliver, along with Rabbit Proof Fence, and The Quiet American. I'm just kidding, this "thing" isn't really a thing. It's actually a picture (or, dare I say, a film) and a pretty good one at that. There are certainly worse ways to spend 90 minutes. You want to know how I knew this was a good one? I can't even remember if there were any tits or not. I want to say yes, towards the end (there are always tits in Reno, right?), but I'm not sure. That's a sign of a good picture (not the lack of tits, mind you, but the lack of remembering if they're were some in the picture. Too fucking involved with the story, I guess). Another sign of a good picture? Some great lines. Like, when one of the bad guys comments on a machine gunned Gondola (long story) at the end: "That things got more holes than my daddy's rubber." Or, when Parker is billed as a "walking advertisement for hiring the handicapped" by the smarmy Willingham. Or, when Parker slices off a guy's eyebrows and follows that up with "I also do circumcision".
This is a fun one. See it for the fights and the blind humor (it's ok, because Hauer isn't really blind see. Or, should that be the other way around?). Yeah, I know, there's a little kid in this one which usually leads to some, unfortunately, tender moments like "i'm sorry your ma was shot, boy" or "my tear ducts were blown off in Nam so I can't fucking cry. Whaddaya want from me?. Scram fucker. Woulda been better off if yer dad were blown up in Nam too. Little fucking brat. Grab me another brew, will ya???" (backhands kid).