Directed by: Rod Hardy
Starring: David Hasselhoff, Lisa Rinna, Sandra Hess, Neil Roberts, Garry Chalk, Tracy Waterhouse, Tom McBeath, Ron Canada, Bill Croft, Roger R. Cross, Peter Haworth, Scott Heindl, Adrian G. Griffiths, Campbell Lane
I don’t read comics. Never read Superman, Batman, X-Men, or Spiderman. The Avengers? Don’t know a thing about them other than what the recent crop of Marvel movies tells me. In those movies there’s a guy called Nick Fury, Agent of Shield. The mysterious eye-patch wearing operative, played by Samuel L. Jackson, kinda hangs out in the shadows, running a secret government organization and keeping watch over our heroes. Jackson as Fury was given a much bigger part in The Avengers, but did you know that before the recent Marvel stuff there already was a movie made about Nick Fury, Agent of Shield? And in that movie, the part of Nick Fury was played by David Hasselhoff, former driver of a sentient black Pontiac Trans Am, father figure to hot lifeguard babes, and darling of Germans everywhere?
What can be said about the Hoff that hasn’t already been said? I grew up on the adventures of Michael Knight, a man who “did not exist,” but who made a difference (with the help of Knight Industries Two Thousand, the super car with artificial intelligence). Then he became a German pop star before returning to the screen in the decade-long series Baywatch. This was followed by a string of appearances in everything from Broadway shows to TV commercials to singing the national anthem at the Vegas Bowl. He even got roasted.
But let’s talk about Marvel comics and Nick Fury, Agent of Shield for a second. In 1963, Marvel released Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, which featured a special WW2 unit of Army Rangers led by the cigar-chomping Fury. (You can see the Howling Commandos, sans Nick Fury, in Captain America: The First Avenger). Fury would later join the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.) in Strange Tales #135, doing battle against the evil terrorist organization HYDRA, James-Bond-like. HYDRA was commanded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who was supported by Red Skull (In the Captain America movie, Red Skull runs HYDRA directly and Strucker is nowhere to be found). But in the comics, Strucker was eventually incinerated before his “death spore bomb” was able to be activated, but a Marvel retcon decided that he wasn’t incinerated after all, just dead but harboring the death spore inside him. This is where David Hasselhoff and 1998’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. come in.
Kicked out of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the end of the cold war, Nick Fury (Hasselhoff) has been licking his wounds in the Yukon. But HYDRA is back, commanded by Baron von Strucker’s daughter Andrea AKA Viper (Sandra Hess, hamming it up in a manner matched by very few) and her slightly dim, expendable bro Werner (Scott Heindl). They invade Trinity base, where the Baron’s body was kept on ice, and steal it, killing Fury’s buddy in the process. So Shield sends Fury’s old girlfriend – “Contessa Valentina de Allegro Fontaine” (a full-lipped Lisa Rinna from Melrose Place) along with wet-behind-the-ears British officer Pierce (Neil Roberts, a suitable replacement for Hugh Grant, I guess) to Fury’s home in an abandoned mine, or something, to convince him to return to duty. After socking Pierce a good one and making a remark about Fontaine’s experience at the “sexpionage game,” Fury returns to Shield’s headquarters, located on a Helicarrier up in the sky (the helicarrier was featured in the comics). After a little more blowing of smoke up Pierce’s hoohaa, as Fury puts it, he discovers that asshole bureaucrat Pincer (Tom McBeath) is running the show.
Back to work as an agent of Shield again, Hoff goes to a Berlin safe-house to interrogate Nazi mad scientist Arnim Zola (Peter Haworth), but Fury is tricked by Andrea von Strucker in disguise (she does everything possible to give herself away but the Hoff is a little too thickheaded to catch on). Because of his slowness on the uptake, Fury gets a kiss of death, and now has less than 48 hours to get the bad guys before he croaks, D.O.A.-style. Fury’s one chance to beat his virus (synthesized from the Colombian tree frog!) is to find Viper and grab a sample of her blood. But that’s the least of the Hoff and Shield’s problems – HYDRA sneaks in an android with a holographic message: the “Death’s Head” virus (the “death spore” from the comics, I assume) will explode over Manhattan, killing millions, unless $1 billion is handed over. Fury takes Pierce and the psychic Kate Neville (Tracy Waterhouse) to HYDRA headquarters while Val takes her team into New York City to try to find the virus before it’s released.
Nick Fury, Agent of Shield is a comic book movie all the way, as everybody delivers their lines in typical comic book fashion. The Hoff brings his “Hoffness” to the role, playing Nick Fury as a wise-cracking, bitter, mad-at-everybody, ass-kicking antihero, prone to breaking no-smoking ordinances, shooting things that malfunction (which causes them to start working again, naturally), and punching out superiors (even though they deserve it). A back-story involving Val is hinted at; a conversation ends with her saying “You haven’t changed. You’re the same jerk I walked out on 5 years ago.” Sometimes the Hoff will belt out literary references, too. Try to imagine these phrases coming from a cigar-chomping, one-eyed Hoff: “Beauty is truth and truth is beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”, “if thine eye offend thee… pluck it out!” But David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury is full of funny lines:
Viper: “I’ll see you in hell!”
Fury: “We’ll do lunch!”
And when Viper makes an escape through a slow moving elevator to the ground below:
Fury: “She’s halfway to china by now!”
Uh, not really, Nick. Maybe she’s in the basement.
There are some interesting gadgets used in Nick Fury, Agent of Shield. Fury’s flash bomb hidden in his fake eye (who would want to live their life knowing there was a bomb in their head? Only Nick Fury!) The helicarrier. Something called Life Model Decoy (LMD), which was also from the comics – it’s a robot impostor done in Fury’s likeness. He’ll get to use it at the conclusion when they storm HYDRA’s secret base, but the answer to my main question – How did they sneak an entire robot in? – is ignored (hey, it’s a comic book). The robot imposter that infiltrates Shield’s HQ is kinda cool, too.
Silliness abounds here – check out Sandra Hess as Viper, doing a routine just slightly more serious than Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. The only thing missing is a mustache for her to twirl, which I admit would ruin her good looks. Why she is surrounded by balding, pale-skinned rejects from a 70s German electronic band is unknown. The reason for her strange incestuous behavior towards her recently reanimated pop is also unknown (and disturbing). By the way, if the idea was to eradicate a deadly virus from the face of the earth, and such virus was known to exist within the corpse of one of the planet’s most feared enemies, why would an anti-terorrist organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. not destroy said corpse immediately instead of putting it on ice? Who knows?
Speaking of disturbing, there’s an ending sequence where HYDRA has missiles filled with virus aimed straight for Manhattan, twin towers in the background. It’s a bit unsettling in light of recent history. You might also notice more than a passing resemblence to Escape from New York here – a man with 48 hours to live is recruited to save the world. And he’s a jerk with an eyepatch. (Was Snake Plissken inspired by Marvel’s Fury character or vice-versa?)
The final scene shows a reanimated Baron telling his happily surprised daughter that “our work has just begun” before they walk out of the dutch-angled frame cackling like a pair of Batman villains. They’ll be back, but Nick Fury, Agent of Shield will be ready. As one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s agents says: “If it’s not Hydra it’s gonna be somebody else. There’s a whole nest of Vipers out there.”
Oh wait, nobody will be back. This is just another TV pilot that never became a series. All was not lost, however – Fox took the viral-threat-to-major-city plotline and combined it with an all-seeing anti-terrorist network plotline to create a little something known as 24. (Even Season Seven of 24 had Jack Bauer fighting terrorists at the same time a virus is killing him). Good things also happened for writer David Goyer, as he went on to pen the stories for the Blade and Batman trilogy. As for Nick Fury, well he’s apparently undergone major surgical alterations, including a change of skin pigmentation. You may have seen his antics recently in The Avengers.
– Bill Gordon