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Rated PG-13
Copyright 1985 Orion Pictures Corporation
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 9 March 2003

The Characters:  

  • Remo Williams - Fred Ward! Before his surgery and identity change, he was a hard-bitten cop named Samuel Macon.
  • Chiun - Master of assassins and tough as nails. His mastery of martial arts is only surpassed by his biting wit.
  • Major Fleming - She is all the accountant that she can be.
  • Mr. Smith - He always looks as if he thinks the person he is talking with might be a doppleganging alien.
  • MacCleary - Smooth operative who was blessed with an artificial arm. Blessed because his job involves clipping through electric fences and getting attacked by dogs. An insulated, nerveless arm is a good thing. Shot.
  • Mr. Grove - Corrupt CEO of the leading defense contractor in the United States. Immolated.
  • Stone - He was Grove's hired muscle. Notice the past tense there.
  • General Watson - After spending years on Grove's bankroll, he is "retired" by Remo.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

"Remo Williams" is one of those films, like "Buckaroo Banzai," that people seem to either enjoy with a passion or hate with a vengeance. I have heard people remark, "What? That stupid movie?" or "Dude, Chiun is THE MAN!" In my humble opinion the film is above average (thus leaving me in the largely unpopulated middle ground). Regardless of my overall feelings, I agree that Chiun is THE MAN.

Macon is happily filling his gut with fast food when three men dash past. The first runner is obviously fleeing from the other two. The royal ass-kicking is interrupted by Macon, but it was an ambush. All three men attack the policeman. The short scuffle looks exceptionally painful, mainly due to the combatants insisting on hitting each other with 2X4's. It takes some luck, but Macon actually wins the fight. He needs a few bandages and a comb for his mustache and hair (honestly, he needed the comb before the fight), but the three bad guys are whupped. Too bad that MacCleary comes along and pushes the squad car, with Macon inside, off the pier.

The policeman wakes in a hospital room. He has a trim haircut, a freshly shaven face, and clean underwear on. No wonder that he accused MacCleary of performing plastic surgery. In any case, the recruiter informs Macon that his name is now Remo Williams. Remo has been recruited into a secret government agency and will do exactly what they tell him. Or else. Any wonder why I sometimes call this movie "La Femme Fred Ward?"

First stop on the introduction tour is Smith's office. The head of the department lectures Remo about the Constitution and how difficult it is to prosecute powerful individuals. Corrupt politicians, power hungry military officers, and filthy CEOs top the list. Dispensing vigilante justice is why the department was formed. With the help of a personal computer, which is tied into every Cray available, Smith sifts through information and identifies the bad guys. The ex-cop's job is to kill the untouchables.

Wait, a PC collating what is processed by a horde of supercomputers? Which 5 1/4" drive is the data stored on?

The inaugural target for assassination is none other than Chiun. Remo tries to shoot the little fellow. Every time he pulls the trigger, Chiun leans to one side and the bullet cleanly misses. Attempting unarmed combat is just as unproductive. The master's deft movements mean that the big cop's fists either pass though empty air, or, even worse, connect with something inanimate. At the end of the exchange Remo is totally beaten. MacCleary enters and introduces Chiun as the man who will teach Remo how to be an expert killer.

The dodging bullets trick is pretty darn cool. By watching for tiny muscle movements or listening for the sounds of tendons flexing, Chiun is able to avoid the trajectory. Do not try this at home kids. Especially not with someone who cannot shoot center mast to begin with.

Remo is suitably upset about losing a fight to Chiun. He tries for a rematch. It ends when Chiun starts affecting nerves and paralyzing parts of his pupil's body. Having your stomach muscles locked in a cramp - ouch. A humbled Remo agrees to stop fighting and start learning.

Training consists of exercises, navigating an obstacle course laid out through the studio apartment, tapping at a finger board, and enduring a steady stream of insults. Chiun is a master of Southwest Asian degradation, prone to stating, "You move like a pregnant yak!" (Try saying it like a little old Korean man. Awesomely funny.) and similar phrases.

Major Fleming enters the story when she begins causing Grove problems. The female officer is in charge of expenditures and does not like what she finds in the accounts. Grove takes it in stride, but a tense hearing about the HARP satellite project (a space weapons platform) and an accident with an experimental rifle (another defense contract) make him decide that Fleming must go.

Elsewhere, Remo is progressing nicely in mastering the techniques. He is sent to keep an eye on Fleming and Grove takes notice. The evil CEO is no dummy; he wants Remo dead. A fight at the Statue of Liberty, which was undergoing renovation, occurs. The three construction workers are no match for the student assassin. Stone wisely runs away.

The best way to find out more about Grove is espionage. MacCleary and Remo sneak into the HARP research laboratory. Now, the older operative has no problem, but Remo expends a lot of energy trying to avoid three Doberman Pinschers; the dogs are an earthly version of Cerberus. Plus, they must have been trained by a circus! The snarling canines even cross a tightrope to menace Remo. He does escape, but MacCleary is shot and killed.

Determined that MacCleary's death not be pointless, Remo volunteers to assassinate Grove. He infiltrates the military proving ground and hooks up with Fleming. Unfortunately, Grove is wise to the operation and sets a trap. The novice assassin and his partners (Chiun shows up) survive a number of misadventures, finally completing the mission. Remo and Chiun steal a motorboat and race off into the sunset as Major Fleming stares wistfully after her hero.

As the title alludes, the movie was obviously intended to be the first in a series. Too bad that it tanked. The hero is all set up to get the girl, Chiun must have a whole bag of insults left, and we will never know if the soap opera character walked again.

George Lucas could have learned something from "Remo Williams." When Yoda fought Dooku he was springing around like a bouncy ball. Now, it was good and many people in the theater cheered, but notice Chiun. The old man's movements, while quick, rely mostly on skill and precision. Ever watch a master fighter? They do not have to be blazingly fast or strong; they know how and where to strike. Seeing Yoda defeat his opponent by pure skill would have been awesome and perhaps caused a little less laughter.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • The 11th Commandment is "Thou shalt not get away with it."
  • All martial arts were spawned from the fighting style of one village in Korea.
  • Hamburgers naturally contain poisons that damage the respiratory tract.
  • Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon were all assassinated by little Korean men.
  • Soap operas are a window into the human soul.
  • Ferris wheels were invented to train students in the martial arts.
  • Cement and quicksand are the same thing.
  • Secret defense development labs carry fire insurance.
  • Tapping on a woman's wrist with the correct rhythm will cause her to orgasm or fall asleep.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 11 mins - They cut your hair and shaved your face. Welcome to the 80's.
  • 13 mins - 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit maybe?
  • 37 mins - Hahahaha! Chiun!
  • 43 mins - This is going to suck...
  • 66 mins - A tail to counterbalance your body would be nice right now; wouldn't it?
  • 76 mins - Go and look up "disposable" in the dictionary.
  • 82 mins - I hate it when rats do that.
  • 90 mins - Twenty rounds per second? That is more than a machinegun on cyclic! How about the barrel overheating? Heck, how about the ammo consumption? I did not see any of the soldiers testing the weapons carrying belts of ammunition.
  • 97 mins - Using the bad guy's diamond tooth adornment as a glass cutter. Cool!


  • Remo: "You make it sound like a public service."
    Chiun: "Professional assassination: it's the highest form of public service."
  • Cop: "Now, I am going to kick your skinny white ass all up and down this street if you don't stop kung fuing that man's throat! Now move it!"

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note remo1.wav Chiun: "He move like a baboon...with two club feet!"
Green Music Note remo2.wav MacCleary: "Didn't I tell you? We don't use that 'bang bang' stuff. Your mind and your body become your weapon. That's what your new pal Chiun is going to teach you."
Green Music Note remo3.wav Remo: "You know, Chiun, there are times when I really like you."
Chiun: "Of course! I am Chiun!"
Remo: "And there are times when I could really kill you."
Chiun: "Good! We will practice that after dinner."
Green Music Note remo4.wav Fleming: "Excuse me, but I do have a name."
Chiun: "Women should stay home and make babies. Preferably man child."
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipremo1.mpg - 2.8m
Remo meets Chiun for the first time. He thinks that the little Korean man is marked for assassination, but, in reality, the martial arts master is appraising his pupil. Remo does plenty of damage to himself and the furniture. Chiun emerges unscathed.

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