Hollywood, as life, is never quite fair. The sure fire winners don’t always win. The talent that’s supposed to become huge stars don’t always graduate to their deserved level even if their work becomes appreciated in due time.
If there’s a positive to be found, it’s in films like Blind Fury. Rutger Hauer’s performances in his early European output through American features like Blade Runner and Nighthawks proved he had the chops and the presence of a major Hollywood star, but none of these films panned out in their initial release. By the late eighties Hauer was relegated to low budget B films. Whatever he thought of his lot, he continued to bring the same intensity to each role. So in Blind Fury Hauer plays Nick Parker an ex soldier, blinded in Vietnam who was taught to “heighten his remaining senses” and now functions as a samurai with his cane hiding a sword. Obviously this is a ridiculous premise, even less believable than the Zatoichi films its based on. But Hauer invests his all in the feature.
Blind Fury is a remake of Zatoichi Challenged where a trip to reconnect with an old friend leaves the hero responsible for the safety of an ornery child. The classic blind swordsman story is repurposed for contemporaneous 1980s culture. Hauer’s character is even given a bit of backstory as Vietnam vet who was blinded and abandoned after a losing battle. He was fortunate to happen across a friendly village who taught him to enhance his remaining senses while learning martial arts. This little nub of an origin allows Hauer to work wonders. That old friend is now a fellow soldier who left Parker to die on the battlefield. It’s evident that the pain of the abandonment was not sated by acquiring superhuman combat skill, and its not clear whether he’s tracking down his old soldier friend to extend forgiveness or extract revenge.
Even during production it should have been evident that “Blind Fury” was not aiming to be high art. A pair of redneck henchmen were played so broadly as to almost wink at the audience. The film forgets about its main villain entirely at the climax, choosing instead to utilize a heretofore unmentioned Japanese assassin. It even forgets to throw in any substantive scene between Parker and his long lost friend. Yet despite this, Hauer is resolute.
The year prior a similarly ridiculously titled feature, “Die Hard” wound up one of the seminal and most successful films of its decade. Before that Hauer’s former collaborator Paul Verhoeven broke through to the American market with a movie named “Robocop”. Maybe then within the climate of the late eighties a movie titled “Blind Fury” was not dismissed out of hand. The producers certainly hoped that this could start a franchise of at least three films, but the poor box office quickly dashed those hopes.
Besides Hauer, Terry O'Quinn and Randall 'Tex' Cobb both appear and do provide good character work. Brandon Call plays the child and perhaps benefits the most from Hauer’s generosity as an actor.