I want to start by emphasizing the above statement: This is a film where Rutger Hauer—best known for playing Roy Batty in Blade Runner and the titular killer in The Hitcher—plays a blind Vietnam veteran who was trained by a small Vietnamese village in the art of swordsmanship. If that sounds like your sort of thing, you should probably just go watch it now. If you’re not convinced, stick around.
Strangely enough, the 1989 movie has deeper origins than “a mountain of cocaine and a script.” It’s an official, though loose, remake of Zatoichi Challenged, one of the films in the long-running Japanese film series about a blind samurai. The remake trades Edo-period Japan for ‘89 Miami and brings in a large subplot about a drug trafficking syndicate, but the bare bones of the story—blind swordsman protects a child from “bad dudes”—remain the same.
The film doesn’t waste time getting to the main premise of the movie either. Hauer plays Nick Parker, a Vietnam veteran who was blinded in a mortar strike and left for dead. A child from a small village rescues him, and the villagers train him in the art of radical sword tricks…as naturally, you do. The film jumps to modern day, as Nick attempts to reconnect with an old war friend Frank, played by Terry O’Quinn. Nick learns from Frank’s wife that he ran into some bad business in Reno and he’s being held hostage there by the evil drug lord Claude Macready (Noble Willingham). As luck would have it, in bursts a couple of Macready’s goons, Frank’s wife gets the absolute shit murdered out of her with a shotgun and Nick runs off with her child on a quest to free Frank. We’re not even at the 20-minute mark here. This movie doesn’t fuck around.
Most of the film is Nick and Frank’s son Billy on the run, dodging armed goons on the way to Nevada. Of course, Billy doesn’t like Nick at first, because that’s how these sort of things go. They warm up to each other eventually as their adventures go on. Also, a ton of limb-chopping, bone-crunching action happens along the way. Nick’s walking cane is also a samurai sword, and every henchman in this movie ends up on the receiving end of it. There’s a big fight in a cornfield. There’s a car chase where one of the cars is driven by a blind man. A ninja shows up at one point, played by (probably real) ninja Sho Kosugi, because again, that’s just how these things happen in 1989-action-movieland. A ninja is going to show up at some point.
Now, I only watched like three episodes of the Netflix Daredevil show, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is better than all seasons of that. Where Daredevil attempts to be dark and gritty, Blind Fury has tons of fun with the concept, and all the primary actors involved are clearly having a blast. The whole thing is directed by Philip Noyce, who also directed the Tom Clancy adaptation Patriot Games and the Val Kilmer feature The Saint. He gives the action scenes a speed and sense of fun that allows the movie to have constant forward momentum. So, if you’ve got a free afternoon and need some stupid fun in your life, I highly recommend it. Blind Fury is streaming for free (with ads) through the IMDB Freedive service.