Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998) / Action-Adventure
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: David Hasselhoff, Lisa Rinna, Sandra Hess, Neil Roberts, Gary Chalk, Tracy Waterhouse, Tom McBeath, Ron Canada
Director: Rod Hardy
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Back in the days before Spider-Man, projects based on Marvel Comics characters were pretty laughable, to say the least, and the made-for-TV movie, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a prime example. Regardless of the casting, such a stale script (penned by future Blade and Batman Begins scribe, David S. Goyer) and lackluster direction (from TV vet, Rod Hardy) couldn't possibly have redeemed the project, although the casting of David Hasselhoff ("Knight Rider", "Baywatch") proves to be the film's most egregious flaw. As this is a bad film, perhaps we should be thankful that they miscast "The Hoff" so poorly, as he is so awful in the title role that he actually elevates the film into the realm of high (albeit unintentional) camp.
Of course, the film is based on the longtime Marvel antihero (appearing in comics in the early 1960s as Sgt. Fury) who was a fictional war hero turned into a superspy for a top secret government agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division), known for his gruff attitude and for always chomping on a stubby cigar. In the film, Fury comes out of retirement after he finds that the offspring of his Nazi nemesis, Baron Wofgang von Strucker, have stolen their father's frozen dead body in order to extract the deadly virus from his blood that had taken his life. Daughter Andrea (Hess, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) now leads international terrorist organizaton, HYDRA, against SHIELD, and their plan is to launch germ warfare on New York City, effectively killing millions if their demands aren't met.
Perhaps the most complimentary thing that I can say about this otherwise anemic choice for entertainment is that it features some impressive (for television) special effects, especially when dealing with the aerial scenes. Although shot with a limited budget, it doesn't really feel like a tiny production, often playing like a theatrically-released film, although a pretty bad one. While the casting of the main characters leaves much to be desired, there is good work by the supporting crew, and the film can be seen as cheesy fun, so long as you aren't expecting anything great (or even passably good).
Nick Fury does seem to set itself up for future efforts, perhaps initially intended as a pilot for a television series, although the lack of general interest, even among comic book aficionados, probably killed that idea shortly after it aired on television. Hasselhoff is absolutely dreadful as the main star, and delivers lines as if suffering from chronic constipation. It takes a certian kind of actor to play a gruff, take-no-shit maverick (Eastwood would have sufficed, though they would never have afforded his price tag), but pretty-boy Hasselhoff never owns the role in even the slightest way. Perhaps equally at fault is the casting of Sandra Hess as Andrea Von Strucker (for some reason, her character is merged with "Viper", a different comic book character from the print series), whose thick, affected German accent, as well as her silly outfits, are overdone in that typical comic book style that has earned the funny books with that reputation as lesser literature not to be taken seriously.
As bad as Nick Fury is, it isn't the worst of Marvel's pre-Spidey productions (if you can believe it), and it is enjoyable in that "so awful, it's good" way that will probably keep bad movie lovers enthralled throughout. That said, unless you're an undescriminating Nick Fury fan just ecstatic to see any nod to your favorite comic book character, this is feeble entertainment that inspires far more chuckles at its expense than excitement. As an action movie, it's a failure, but as a "comedy", it's golden.
©2006 Vince Leo