NICK FURY: AGENT OF SHIELD is a rarity for a variety of reasons, but most notably around these parts because it’s one of the few (and maybe the only) movie that’s been reviewed twice and by different people. So before you read mine (or after you’ve read mine), check out Joe Crowe’s excellent review of this surprisingly good TV movie.
Yeah, that’s right, this is a surprisingly good TV movie.
It’s easy to dismiss NICK FURY because superhero movies are a lot cooler now than they were back in the late ’90s. FURY also hit your little screens the same year Blade hit the big screens marking this year as the transition between what it used to mean to be a Marvel movie, and what it currently means. Both films were written by David Goyer and both films just exude a sense of a wholly unique and fully-realized world.
Nick Fury (David Hasselhoff) has been put out to pasture by SHIELD due to the end of the Cold War. He’s living in Alaska and living in a mine shaft, or something. Anyway, SHIELD sends a rookie British agent named Alexander Pierce (Neil Roberts) to collect him.
Of course they do. When you need to bring in the biggest, baddest, old school agent, you obviously send a rookie agent.
From the perspective of common sense, this is a dumb idea, but for the film, it allows us to get our first full dose of David Hasselhoff’s take on Nick Fury, which can be summed up most succinctly like this: eye-patch, leather, cigar, sweat, growling, face stubble, punching bureaucrats, and staring at a leather-clad Lisa Rinna.
In other words, he rather nails Nick Fury.
Nick is brought back in because the children of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker have HYDRA up and running again and doing bad things. Bringing Fury back doesn’t sit well with SHIELD Director Jack Pincer, which makes you wonder if he secretly wanted Fury to come back just so he could spend the entire time yelling at someone. Fury has a couple of old allies, too, in Gabriel Jones (Ron Canada) and Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan (Gary Chalk). They call Dugan “Tim” instead of “Dum Dum” and don’t give him his bowler hat, either, but it’s almost better this way since his job is to be the administrative antithesis of Pincer and not just an old war buddy of Nick’s.
The real stars here are Hasselhoff and Lisa Rinna. The Hoff is great because he totally throws himself into this role. He’s a very limited actor, but I feel like if directors can give him … two, maybe three things to do, he can be effective. You can almost see the gears grinding away in his head, reminding him what he’s supposed to be doing in FURY: “GROWL. CIGAR. LINE. GROWL. CIGAR. LINE.” The make-up and wardrobe department can do the rest. Because of this limit, however, Hasselhoff’s Fury is a very focused character and what seems a bit off at first in the mine shaft eventually becomes accepted because he keeps hammering away at it.
Lisa Rinna is fantastic because, like Hasselhoff, her range as an actress goes from heretohere, but in that range, she manages to force Hasselhoff to step out of his comfort zone, and this makes him very uncomfortable, which is exactly what Fury is supposed to be feeling. It’s rather brilliant, actually, how these two play off each other. Rinna plays Contessa Valentina “Val” Allegra de Fontaine, which means she has four more words in her name than she has emotional states. She’s clearly here to humanize Nick a bit and make the tough guy deal with some emotions. It seems like every spare moment Nick gets is spent arguing with Val about their past. They were lovers. Each cheated on the other. Yet they still only wear leather, so you know these two kids will work things out.
We know she has an effect on Fury because even after he tells her that “as much as I’d like to sit here and lick old wounds, we’ve got a job to do,” by the end of the movie he wants to play nice, suck face, and stop smoking.
He’s kind of a dick about it, too. Tim gives him a cigar as a welcome back/job well done gift, Fury sniffs it and says, “Cuban. My favorite,” because no one is ever allowed to mention Cuban cigars in a story and not say they’re the best ever, and then he pockets it, saying he wants to live longer or some nonsense. Basically, he’s telling Dugan, “I’m going to start screwing Val again in about ten minutes, she hates these things, and I’ve been living in the woods for five years. Do not f*ck this up for me.”
HYDRA is led by Strucker’s kids: Andrea von Strucker (Sandra Hess) and her brother, Werner, who … doesn’t do anything except creep everyone out. Andrea goes by the name, “Viper,” comes up with plans to kill all the people in Manhattan if the government doesn’t give her a billion dollars, and cackle. The cackling is utterly over the top and completely horrible, but when she takes on a different identity so she can get close enough to Nick to try and kill him, her near success makes me respect her a bit. She’s not just crazy, but smart.
Viper wants to let loose the Death Head’s Virus on Manhattan, killing everyone unless she gets one billion dollars. Her long term goal is to bring back her dead father and sacrifice her brother. Fury and SHIELD stop her, but she gets away and gets her decrepit, dead daddy back, again. Clearly, the producers were setting up a possible sequel, but we never got it. It’s a shame because we would not have been worse off if there were four Nick Fury TV movies out there.
If you’re a comic fan who’s got a sense of humor, you owe it to yourself to track down this film. It won’t be easy – it’s only been released on DVD once, and that was a Best Buy exclusive back in 2008. It’s a decent little tv movie, though, so if you’re inclined, I recommend checking it out when you’ve got a chance.
Or else Fury might just stop by your house and blow smoke up your hoo-ha, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?