"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Blind Justice

June 25, 1994

The day after WYATT EARP came out, HBO debuted a western of their own. BLIND JUSTICE stars Armand Assante (PARADISE ALLEY) as Canaan, a blind gunfighter who wears goggle-like sunglasses, enjoys cigars, and is introduced carrying a baby. When he’s surrounded by bandits he hands the baby to one of them and shoots the others. It made me think this was gonna be a western riff on ZATOICHI + LONE WOLF AND CUB, which sounds like a fun time to me, so I thought oh no, I’m gonna seem like a real heathen if I’m more enthusiastic about the cheap ass made-for-cable western of summer ’94 than the expensive theatrical ones by Richard Donner and Lawrence Kasdan. But I had nothing to worry about.

The baby isn’t his, and is too young to participate in the violence, as good ol’ Daigoro does in LONE WOLF AND CUB. This one’s an infant girl he doesn’t even know the name of because “the poor man” he took her from died before he could tell him her name. “It was a shame I had to kill him,” he says. But he promised to bring her to her mother in some town called Los Portales that no one has ever heard of. In his search he ends up in San Pedro, a border town where cavalry men are holed up, protecting a shipment of silver for the mint, unable to leave because the only road through the canyon is blocked by the sadistic bandit Alacran (Robert Davi, CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS: THE DISCOVERY) and his men.

Canaan is confronted by Sergeant Hastings (Adam Baldwin, last seen yesterday in WYATT EARP), who assumes he’s with the thieves even though he brings some of them in dead, slung over their horses. Canaan has the main type of blindness we see in movies, the one where you can’t see but basically you can because of your powerful senses. So he can tell that a guy (Ian McElhinney) is a priest and holding a gun, he can pour himself whisky without overflowing, he can tell that a scorpion is crawling toward Hastings’ hand and shoot it off the fence before he even notices it himself, etc.

He gets into a knife vs. rifle standoff with the soldiers, but a former army nurse named Caroline (Elisabeth Shue, THE KARATE KID, LINK) steps in and says that if he helps them she can take him to Los Portales. He stays with her, she tends his wounds, takes care of the baby, acts like she hates him but clearly lusts for him from moment one. Check out the eyes she makes the first time she sees him:

And this is literally all she’s looking at:

That’s how hot he is! Appearing to be a single father and all. Or carrying a bunch of dead bodies into town. Or maybe it’s just the sunglasses? We do know that sunglasses make somebody cool (see: Chester Cheetah, Joe Camel, Snoopy Joe Cool, etc.), and maybe in those days when they were harder to come by they were straight up irresistible. Something about him acts as a damn aphrodisiac, because after that she keeps leaning in and kinda sniffing him when she dresses his gunshot wound. And then he’s being his usual sexist grump and she’s in the other room barely able to contain her arousal, exposes one nipple (I’m sure he can hear it), and they’re about one second from fucking when the baby cries and he calls it off.

My assumption that this was gonna be samurai-inspired was too optimistic. Some things that Zatoichi and Ogami Itto do that Canaan doesn’t include traveling to different locations, getting into more than a couple skirmishes, and running into interesting characters. Canaan’s funny because he kind of seems like a parody of an over-the-top Al Pacino performance, plus he says some very stupid one-liners and is cocky about everything except when he’s terrorized by generic PTSD flashback dreams about failing to save a little girl during the war. There are a series of these flashbacks spread out, as if it’s slowly building to an important revelation that will explain where he’s coming from, but there’s not much there, really. (Well, I guess it’s cool that he was blinded by lime shoveled on his face when he was left for dead in a body pit.)

Occasionally some things happen. They build a ring of fire around him and he covers his horse’s face and they ride right through it, that’s pretty cool looking and an impressive stunt that I hope wasn’t too mean to the horse.

Also he gets captured by an army private played by Jack Black (who had only been in BOB ROBERTS, AIRBORNE and DEMOLITION MAN). Canaan distracts him by showing off that he can catch a fly in his hand, then knees him in the head.

And Alacran is real evil. When he tells his men to give a thirsty man water they know that means to piss in his mouth. When he says he’s gonna give him something to eat I thought jesus christ, man but it turns out he meant shoot him in the face. Man, think about your words and how they’re going to be interpreted, dude. That sounded gross.

Danny Nucci (COMBAT ACADEMY) plays a particularly evil bandit who tries to rape Caroline, which is never a fun way to enliven a dumb movie, but it does lead to Canaan reaching under, cupping his nuts and asking “How do you like your eggs, son? Scrambled?” before crushing them. (That’s how people talked in the old west.)

Also there’s a dummy of a rotted hanging corpse that I think they use in two different locations, he looks like a cool zombie out of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD or LIFEFORCE. I wondered if he was a prop left over from some horror movie. If so, good find, and if not, give a raise to whoever went through the trouble of making it for this movie. That’s going above and beyond!

For what it’s worth Davi does a good job of the now extinct tradition of Italians playing Mexican villains. I was thinking I hadn’t seen him do anything like that before, but duh, he was the drug lord Sanchez in LICENCE TO KILL.

I guess there’s a little excitement in the finale. There’s a local Native shaman (Jimmy Herman, DANCES WITH WOLVES) who rescues and heals Canaan, and we’ve seen that a million times, but instead of being wise this guy is crazy and loves blowing shit up. So when the bad guys are in the church for a funeral they load the coffin full of dynamite and Canaan runs in, starts shooting everybody, and ignites it. Somehow the explosion shoots him like a cannonball right through the door, and then he’s fine.

Of course Alacran survives too (maybe he broke through the back door) so they are still able to have a final showdown. Canaan says he can’t see or hear Alacran but he knows where to shoot because “You smell like shit.”

I do like that at the end he just leaves with the baby, insisting it’s still his duty to find this town but having no further information about its location. I guess that could mean this was meant as a pilot or potential beginning of a series of movies, but I like it as an ending where he helped kill a bunch of dudes and could’ve gotten laid by someone way out of his league (in my opinion, not his) but otherwise has made no progress whatsoever. Sometimes that’s how it goes.

BLIND JUSTICE is the first of only four movies directed by Richard Spence. His most notable work is probly DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (1996), because one of the main characters is a transgender woman. The writer of BLIND JUSTICE is Daniel Knauf, who is strictly a TV guy, but weirdly I’ve reviewed two things by him before: the Ronny-Yu-directed episode of Fear Itself, and the 2009 pilot-turned-TV-movie for an updated version of The Phantom. He’s best known as the creator of Carnivále.

It’s also an early movie for producer Neal H. Moritz – only his fourth. In a couple years he’d do I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and URBAN LEGEND and CRUEL INTENTIONS and eventually THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. At that point he was partnered with David Heyman, now known for producing all the HARRY POTTERs and the PADDINGTONs plus ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD, MARRIAGE STORY and BARBIE. All of these only possible because of BLIND JUSTICE, in my opinion.

Shue is not very convincing in this role but her career blew up right afterwards. Next she got to be directed by Steven Soderbergh in THE UNDERNEATH, followed by her Oscar nominated performance in LEAVING LAS VEGAS. I will leave you with a screengrab of the last of many times that she slightly leans in like she wants to make out with Canaan real bad.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 1st, 2024 at 7:12 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Blind Justice”

  1. This is a momentous day: Outlaw Vern Dot Com’s first nipple.

  2. I would hate to imagine the conversations Adam Baldwin and Robert Davi had.

  3. I would hate to imagine the conversations Adam Baldwin and Robert Davi had.

  4. Shout out to the folks behind BLIND FURY for actually using the slightly less obvious title for their movie.


    Ok, so why didn’t you make it “Blind, Deadly Justice”?
    I’m always amused when it sounds like the tagline people are pissed off at the people who came up with the title.


  6. If a nipple is exposed in the forest and no one is around to hear it was it ever exposed?

  7. Dreadguacamole

    July 2nd, 2024 at 2:18 pm

    I have no idea what’s going on in that picture, but it looks like Assante and Shue are having a boob-off. And Assante is winning.

    “Man, think about your words and how they’re going to be interpreted, dude.” had me laughing hard enough to make my wife come down and check if I was all right.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>