REMO WILLIAMS: The Adventure Begins" is spit-polished, reactionary fiction with Fred Ward as a middle-aged Karate Kid.

Ward has the title role as a busted-up beat cop who's coaxed into a covert, quasi-official operation against white-collar crime. Wilford Brimley and J.A. Preston costar as White House spooks who've been working secretly for six administrations now. It's kind of like "All the President's Hit Men."

"Everywhere you look, slime is on the loose," say Remo's recruiters, citing corruption in the legal system and cost overruns as justification for hunting down their current target, a crooked defense contractor who's been gouging the Pentagon.

Cost overruns?

Remo is an ordinary, two-fisted cop until he meets the miraculous, mystic martial arts whiz Chiun (Joel Grey) who is supposed to teach lumpy Remo to be as lethal as Bruce Lee. Never mind that he's about as stealthy as a moose with arthritis.

Chiun -- this year's answer to Yoda, Pat Morita and Yul Brynner -- teaches Remo to duck bullets and kill with his thumbs. And he purges Remo's system of dangerous meats.

Remo learns to run on the beach like Rocky and he gathers strength from Chiun's quiet wisdom. Koreans kill to bring about harmony, brags Chiun. After all, "public assassination is the highest form of public service," according to him.

Seditious themes aside, the adventure fails mostly because Ward never achieves super- hero status. He never quite lives up to the name RE-MO. Sluggo maybe.