Twenty years ago during the Vietnam War, American soldier Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer) was injured in battle, which left him stumbling around the jungle completely blind. He was found by some Vietnamese villagers who took him under their wing, feeding him and training him to be a master swordsman in spite of his affliction, so by the time he had returned to the United States he was able to get by in the world without assistance. An example of this would be when he was victimised by a group of toughs in a diner, but got his own back by beating them up. However, he will have to draw on all his skills in this fresh adventure...
Blind Fury was based on the Zatoichi series of films from the Far East, an attempt to Americanise a very Japanese hero, which is probably why they updated the character to the present day and offered him a Vietnamese backstory that played out under the credits so we would think, of course, which sightless swordsman wouldn't be able to destroy a roomful of gunwielding thugs with the exotic training he had? Alas, they couldn't help but render the notion preposterous, and with that in mind they evidently opted for the easy way out: if this looked silly, then add a few gags and we can say, hey, we meant to do that.
The actual narrative depicts Nick getting into hot water when he goes to visit his old war buddy Frank Devereaux (Terry O'Quinn), who when we first see him is being hung by his ankles from the top of a Reno casino. This is being carried out to make sure he goes along with the bad guy's wishes and rustles up a load of drugs for them, but Nick is utterly unaware of this when he drops in on Frank's wife (Meg Foster) to say hello to him. Why he has waited twenty years to do so is a mystery, but when he arrives at the house no sooner has he settled down for a cup of coffee than a bunch of baddies descend with a view to kidnapping Frank's Scrappy-Doo-esque son Billy (Brandon Call).
Naturally, Nick sees them off, though cannot prevent them from shooting dead Mrs Devereaux (Meg must have wondered why she bothered showing up) and leaving him in charge of the boy. A road trip transpires with the duo making their way to Reno to meet up with Billy's dad, but all along the way the heavies are trailing them, providing the film with plentiful opportunities to break out the action sequences. Hauer plays this in an almost self-spoofing manner, as if you could mistake him for gormless if it were not for the accuracy of his blade. But the movie surrounding him wants to be parodic as well, so we get scenes where, for example, Nick is forced to drive a car and gets yelled at by a fellow driver "Are you blind?!"
Well, you can guess the answer to that one. But while some could consider this snickering approach to the venerable character as somewhat disrespectful, there's no sense here that the filmmakers are not keen on him at all, if anything they think it's a great idea to have a blind swordsman. It's just that they seem to have cold feet about taking him deadly seriously, which makes for a film that lurches between tearjerking bits, as when Nick has to break the news of his mother's death to Billy, to the action which is presented with the efficiency typical of the time (and features Shô Kosugi for about two seconds), to moments of high comedy - or "High Camp" as one sign on a cable car has it. With this hotchpotch offered up for your delectation, you can go with its admittedly amusing antics, or roll your eyes and grumble about how Hollywood remakes are always off the mark. Music by J. Peter Robinson.