Bad beginning, worse end.
Remo Williams Blu-ray Review
It’s easy to look back on fond childhood memories with rose-tinted glee, and sometimes hard to distinguish between classics from that period, and films that you loved when you were a kid, but which don’t stand up to more mature scrutiny.Unfortunately, Remo Williams may just fall into the latter category for many, and, for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure, may well end up being nothing but a lightweight mess of very little worth indeed.
The story – although, really, it makes absolutely no sense – is supposed to play out as a kind-of blend of Rambo and Bond, but has more in common with The Karate Kid and The Golden Child, only without any comedy. It sees Fred Ward’s dogged cop ‘killed’ in the line of duty, before being resurrected (and given a face-change which appears to have only affected his moustache) to work for a black ops assassination unit which appears to only have three members, all of whom don’t actually kill very many people. To this end he has to be trained by a ‘Korean’ mentor, who teaches him to jump in sand, walk on cement, and dodge bullets.
A strange movie, which features its best and most bloody and brutal action during its opening scene ‘murder’, and only goes downhill from there, Remo looks like a production whose budget simply seeped away before they could do anything they actually wanted to.Remembered mostly for its relatively rare use of the Statue of Liberty – which is anticlimactic, at best, as Remo fights a bunch of construction workers who appear to have been paid to push him off (?!) – and for Joel Grey’s impersonation of a Korean martial arts mentor, one of the things that you keep expecting, but never get (aside from any decent action) is some comedy. Considering the film wears its budget on its sleeve, and has so many odd ideas in it (really, what’s with the walking-on-water trick, what possible use is that, even within the confines of the movie?), it would have worked far better had it not even bothered attempting to take itself seriously.
Instead it hits you with brazenly incongruous musical scoring and po-faced ‘drama’, from which only Fred Ward’s game-for-anything central performance, and perhaps some of his mentor’s dismissive one-liners, survive intact. Neither suitable for kids – the opening sequence and a later eye-gouging preclude this – nor particularly designed for adults, the film itself plays like an extended version of a pilot for a TV series, which is ironic considering that the source books were later used for a further, abortive TV project. Clearly they wanted to make a Remo franchise, but there’s nothing here to suggest that that would have been a good idea.
What is Remo Williams Blu-ray Picture LikeOne thing you can't complain about is the video which, considering the budget and age, is largely impressive. Indeed, even those fans who find that the film itself doesn't stand up after all these years will not be able to deny the fact that they've simply never seen it look this good. The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation renders the movie in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Remo may not have aged well in terms of content, but it has certainly never looked this good.
Sporting a healthy swathe of thick, but suitably filmic grain, solid detail remains evident throughout, with regular softness and even some spotty damage, but - in motion - almost nothing that actually affects your enjoyment of the film, which is arguably the biggest plus. The colour scheme is pretty authentic and also therefore almost as dated as the movie itself, with a faded palette and very little primary content, but skin tones look healthy and black levels are reasonably strong.
This may be pure 80s low grade fluff, but it has been served up in a way which is both respectful as to the preservation of the integrity of the original image (i.e. it's not DNR'd to all hell) and also potent enough to stand modern-day home cinema presentation on decent-sized HD screens. That's a tough ask, and Arrow have once again pulled it off.
How Does Remo Williams Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying uncompressed LPCM 2.0 track similarly stays faithful to the original source material whilst allowing it prime presentation across your sound system. Dialogue gets pride of place, largely dominating the fronts and centre channels where appropriate, and rising above the rest of the elements to remain clear and coherent throughout.
Remo also sounds pretty special on this new release.
Effects are quite limited - mainly by the budget - but the intermittent gunfire, body blows, stunts and set-pieces do allow for some brief instances of punch, which do their best to stand apart within the array. Some surround activity is there, but this is a fairly restricted arena. Indeed, where the track once again impresses is in the score element. However much you might find the score rather ill-fitting for the material (it would have worked, perhaps, had the film either been more of a comedy, or more of a decent-budget actioner, but instead feels over-enthusiastic considering how tame the content actually is), it gets some sizeable airtime here, taking the reins for the majority of the proceedings, and bringing the kind of punch and pizzazz that the film itself seems entirely devoid of.
Remo Williams Blu-ray ExtrasYou may well end up feeling that there are far more deserving films out there which should have been given this kind of treatment, but, for true fans, there's very little to actually complain about, and instead just a great deal to be overjoyed at.
Considering the number of movies that still get just bare bones releases, Remo's plethora comes as a shock.
Kick-starting with an Audio Commentary from Producers Larry Spiegel and Judy Goldstein, the retrospective reminiscence comes thick and fast, with a decent Retrospective Documentary - Remo, Rambo, Reagan and Reds: The Eighties Action Movie Explosion, that has action aficionado Bey Logan and a bunch of other experts look back at this production, as well as separate Interview-based Retrospectives - When East Met West, focussing on Joel Grey's mentor role; Changing Faces, looking at the make-up work; and Notes for a Nobleman, revisiting the score. There's also an Isolated Music and Effects Track, a Trailer and Arrow's usual welcome booklet sporting articles and further production trivia.
Is Remo Williams Blu-ray Worth BuyingArrow's release of Remo: The Adventure Begins on Region B-locked UK Blu-ray is sure to please those devout fans of the film. It sports faithful video and audio as well as a horde of excellent extras. Unfortunately the film itself is very dated, and may not stand up to revisiting, and, for those who never saw it first time around, it may be difficult to understand why it was ever embraced in the first place.
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