Not too long ago it was in the nerd-news that Samuel L. Jackson had signed on to play the character “Nick Fury” in as many as nine Marvel Comics movies. Some people said, “Well, that’s not surprising. Samuel L. Jackson will sign onto anything!” But that’s not really fair, they were probaly just actors who were bitter because they didn’t get the roles in THE SPIRIT, CLEANER, RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, S.W.A.T., SOUL MEN, JUMPER, HOME OF THE BRAVE, FREEDOMLAND, FARCE OF THE PENGUINS, BASIC, CHANGING LANES, SPHERE, LOADED WEAPON 1, etc.
Where does this Nick Fury come from? Probaly some comic book, but in my opinion mainly from this TV movie starring David Hasselhoff. I actually have wanted to see this for years because it was written by David Goyer in the same year he did BLADE, but they rarely showed it on TV. One time I happened to catch part of it on cable so I checked to see when it would air again – never, it turned out. That was the one and only scheduled airing. But that was before Fury Fever swept the nation, so now it’s on DVD.
This is very clearly made for TV. The sets (lots of high tech headquarters and labs) look cheesy, the female leads are from soap operas, the CGI vehicles look like models from ROBOTJOX, and Nick Fury asks his team to go “kick some butt” which might be appropriate language if he was playing a Presbyterian pastor turned soccer coach, but not as much for a seen-it-all military badass. Still, I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy this more than some of the more lush comic book productions including but not limited to DAREDEVIL, GHOST RIDER, FANTASTIC FOUR and SAMUEL L. JACKSON’S THE SPIRIT. Maybe that’s partly because there’s no capes or masks, this is more like an action movie.
Fury is a grizzled, eye-patched, cigar-chewing ex-government agent first seen digging in a mine with a sign on the door that says “you better have a DAMN good reason for knocking.” A wet-behind-the-ears agent from S.H.I.E.L.D. (Society for Hurrying Injury of Eyes, Limbs and Dicks) decides that a damn good reason is that the evil Nazi Baron who poked out Fury’s eye has been resurrected and Fury must return to duty to stop this asshole and his hot daughter from poisoning all of Manhattan.
The script is tight and delivers all the comic book shit I as a non-comic-book aligned viewer demand. It’s classic Goyer, full of funny tough guy dialogue, high tech gadgets and gimmicky tricks. There are robot doubles, hologram walls, poison lipstick – all set ups for Fury to show off his Plisskenesque attitude. When the SHIELD director is chewing him out Fury pulls out a gun and starts shooting – turns out there’s a duplicate of the director right behind him. Fury made the 50/50 guess which one was a robot. It’s clear he guessed right when a hologram message projects from out of the mouth and especially when the android falls apart and catches on fire.
When the femme fatale poisons him and her blood is the only hope for an antidote, Fury says, “I’ll get that vampire’s blood if I have to suck it out of her neck myself.” He goes on a mission with a 103 fever and is happy when he gets locked in a meat locker. He has no trouble escaping – there are explosives hidden in his fake eye. This guy can handle anything, and he doesn’t even need a talking car or a boogie board.
I’ve talked about this before, that it’s too bad we can’t give actors a fair shot after they became famous for a silly TV show. Every once in a while a Will Smith or a George Clooney pulls it off, but how is David Hasselhoff ever gonna live down KNIGHT RIDER and BAYWATCH? He was too successful at those. He will always be Michael Knight and Mitch Baywatch and singing in Germany. He can’t escape it. So playing a comic book tough guy makes us laugh. But it’s too bad because he’s pretty good in the role and I don’t think we’d laugh if we’d never seen him before. He knows the proper procedure for punctuating his lines with cigar removal or replacement, and he’s got the cockiness down.
At the end it becomes obvious that this was a pilot for a series that never happened. That might’ve been fun, but I doubt Goyer would’ve written all the episodes, and in the last scene Fury puts his cigar away and says he’s been thinking about quitting, which is/was/would’ve been a bad sign.
Anyway, if they can make a TV movie starring David Hasselhoff as this character this much fun they better not fuck up the big budget one.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.