Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hard Target

Hard Target; action, USA, 1993; D: John Woo, S: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lance Henriksen, Arnold Vosloo, Yancy Butler, Wilford Brimley

New Orleans. Natasha is searching for her homeless father, Binder, whom she hasn't seen ever since he divorced her mother. When she is attacked by robbers, she is saved by Chance Boudreaux, another homeless man. Natasha offers him money to help her find her dad and Chance accepts. When the police find Binder's corpse, little by little Natasha and Chance discover a web of intrigues led by Fouchon, who colludes with millionaires who are so bored with their lives they pay him to hunt, shoot and kill homeless men in the city at night. One of their victims was Binder. Natasha and Chance hide at his uncle's place in the swamp, lure the millionaires and Fouchon in an old warehouse, and then kill them.

John Woo's 1st feature length film for the American market, and the first big budget US film directed by an Asian director, "Hard Target" is today a curiosity in the director's filmography, serving as his "adjustment phase" in a new country, yet still works as a good action film, with that typical flair of the 90s involving a stranger with little words who takes on the much stronger bad guys, which is reminiscent of S. Leone's films, especially his Dollars Trilogy. A thin, simplistic story with a rather abrupt ending, a couple of clumsy scenes or 'stilted' slow motion shots, somewhat one-dimensional characters and a few silly moments (the snake sequence) narrow the enjoyment value of the film, yet it still serves as a competent, fast, dynamic, thrilling and all-around energetic action ride, with 'tongue-in-cheek' irony that refuses to take itself seriously (Randall is holding a cigar in his mouth, and Chance lights up a match — but just when Randall leans forward to light up his cigar, Chance blows out the match; Wilford Brimley in a humorous guest appearance as Chance's uncle who rides a horse and shoots at the villains...). Naturally, Woo again rises to the occasion in several great action sequences — one is when the robbers assault Natasha (she opens the door of her car, but one of the thugs shuts it by kicking the door; a thug swings with a bottle at Chance, but he catches his arm and just bends it backwards to let the bottle hit him) and the other is when Chance charges with a motorcycle that leaks gasoline at the bad guys, smashes it into their car and shoots at the gasoline, thereby igniting it into an explosion, which is a fine example of action, easily one of Van Damme's finest hours.


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