HYDRA threatens to launch a terrorist attack on New York if the U.S. government doesn’t pay them $1 billion. In a scene tinged with bitter post-9/11 irony, Fury rules out airplanes as a means of attack, assuring the President that no one would ever be stupid enough to launch an aerial terrorist attack on Manhattan. The subsequent shots of missiles pointing at the World Trade Center make for further unintentionally awkward moments.
It’s not just the 9/11 gaffes that make Fury look incompetent and downright Clousseau-esque. When the mission takes them to Germany (of course it takes them to Germany! The German title is Agent Nick Fury – Einsatz in Berlin.) Fury doesn’t find it suspicious when their female contact in Berlin keeps trying to seduce him. He doesn’t even begin to suspect she’s a double agent until after she poisons him with “the deadliest neurotoxin known to man.” Which, by the way, takes 48 hours to kill a human. If it takes two whole days to kill someone, then how is it the deadliest neurotoxin? I suspect they just made up this poisoning subplot to cover up for Hasselhoff’s painfully stiff and slow fight choreography.
But Hasselhoff isn’t wholly to blame for this turd. In fact his particular brand of bad acting elevates this super spy snooze fest into something that’s sorta almost watchable in parts. Fury’s spy partner/love interest is played by “Melrose Place” castoff Lisa Rinna, a walking public service announcement on the horrors of collagen lip implants. Her performance is bland and non-committal. It’s as if she only acted in this stinker so she could afford more face surgery. Maybe it was all the surgery that made her face look so expressionless throughout this flick.
She also suffers from some of the worst hair continuity I’ve ever seen. One scene it’s slick and wet, the next it’s blow dried and poofy.
But this movie’s Nic Cage Award for Dramatic Overacting belongs to Sandra Hess for her unforgettable performance as the villainous villainess Viper. From her outrageously fake German accent to her histrionic Norma Desmond-esque posturing, Hess takes overacting to near-Faye Dunaway heights.
It wouldn’t be a spy movie without gadgets, and Fury is equipped with everything a James Bond on a budget could want—a laser pistol he never uses, an aerosol spray that somehow allows you to pass through laser security systems undetected, and an L.M.D., or Life Model Decoy. This scene gave me nightmares for weeks:
I can’t tell them apart. They’ve both got cold dead eyes and lack a soul.
By theatrical standards Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a travesty of a film. The production values are too low to live up to its ambitious script. But compared to all the other live-action Marvel movies made in the early to mid-‘90s, it’s slightly above average.
As a TV movie it’s middling. The pacing is so slow I actually fell asleep twice while watching it. The cinematography is akin that of a soap opera. And so is the acting.
But as a backdoor pilot for a late ‘90s TV series it’s actually pretty good, promising a program of near “Lois & Clark” quality. The CGI effects, while shoddy by today’s standards, are quite accomplished for low budget ‘90s TV. And frankly I wish we could’ve lived in a world where Hasselhoff fought neo-Nazi super villains every week on basic cable. Instead we got “Baywatch Nights.”
2 RoboHoffs out of 5
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