Those only familiar with the Samuel L. Jackson incarnation of the Marvel comic’s cyclopian super spy may be surprised to know that the original model was a crusty old soldier firmly of the caucasian persuasion. This creaky TV movie that was hoping to score a series was written by none other than David Goyer who went on to script not only the Blade trilogy but also had a huge hand in steering both Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the early days of the DCEU but only succeeded in joining Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher and Howard The Duck in the box marked “mismanaged Marvel”.
After a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility is raided for the cryogenically frozen body of Hydra terrorist Baron Von Strucker in order to extract a deadly virus bonded to his DNA, the top brass put out to get Fury out of self-imposed exile, living in a mine in the Yukon. It’s not explained why Fury is chipping away at the mine with a pick axe only three feet from the entrance, what he’s even mining for or why he insists on puffing his cigar in an environment known for flammable gas pockets but after being informed that Hydra has begun their comeback tour he saddles up to come out of retirement and join the good fight once again. However, it seems that the time away hasn’t done to calm the curmudgeonly old prick down as Nick’s shooting security scans and sexually harassing female members of the Psy-Ops team 20 minutes within setting foot on a helicarrier. As he slowly acclimates to being back on the job he is informed that the culprits of this global conspiracy are Von Strucker’s kids, Andrea (aka Viper) and Werner, who alternate their devious plans with impenetrable accents, villainous eyeball rolling and more hysterical laughter than is strictly necessary and plan to hold the world to ransom with the Death’s Head virus.
Fury’s glowing reputation takes an early beating however after getting taken out by a fatal kiss infused with tree frog venom (“How long long do I have before Kermit bites me the big one?” Is Nick’s refreshingly pragmatic response) proving that Snake Plisken doesn’t corner the market on eye patched assholes trying to complete a mission before succumbing to a time release toxin. Fury stubbornly insists in continuing in his mission before he succumbs to the poison (S.H.I.E.L.D’s health and safety protocols definitely need a look at) and him and a couple of agents infiltrate Hydra’s base of operations while the rest of the secret agency scour the island of Manhattan for the virus.
Can Fury and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D possibly hope to thwart a plan hopelessly devoid of originality armed only with their wits and questionably thick leather uniforms that could waylay them all with chafing at any moment?
If this clunky attempt at a pilot had been put together in the 70’s and 80’s (during all those other attempts to cobble together launching pads for other members of the merry Marvel marching band) then the cheesy crapness of Nick Fury could be somewhat understandable and maybe even forgivable, but when you realise it was made as late as 1998 (it was actually screened mere months before Blade hit theatres) it seriously makes one wonder who the hell this show was meant to be for.
The budget is virtually and painfully non-existent with Hydra soldiers confusingly kitted out in what seems to be nylon stockings over their heads (Hydra must be big on hiring underwear sniffers) and the immense helicarrier reduced to looking like a knockoff G.I. Joe action playset bought out of the back of a dodgy van. The plot is unimaginative tripe with S.H.I.E.L.D populated by irritatingly lucky idiots who only manage to stop the countdown of killer, virus stuffed missiles purely because the villain is incapable of holding a poker face for longer than 10 seconds. However, long term comic readers will be impressed at some of the deep cuts when it comes to the characters dredged up from decades of Marvel lore – ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D has many plus points but even THIS show didnt manage to include the character of La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontain in any of it’s episodes (presumably because no one could be fucked to keep writing her name in the script over and over again).
In the plus column however, David Hasselhoff makes a stunningly comic accurate Fury and is obviously having immense fun barking out dialogue like “Hydra’s been jerking our chain six ways till Sunday!” through teeth clenched permanently around a cigar stub. It’s as subtle as a sledgehammer face lift but it kinda works, it’s just a shame than no one else in the cast can hope to match him in selling the corny nature of the infantile script but then again, I guess that’s the kind of skills you develop when you fight crime with a talking car for five years.
Valuable as only as a curio for die hard Marvel fanatics and Germans (you know, cos they love the Hoff…) Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D regrettably proves that despite it’s gamely scrappy lead, Hasselhoff isn’t an (eye)patch on Samuel L. Jackson’s gruff MCU puppet master.