Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
Hard Target

tn_hardtargetwoozoneusaThere was a time, I must admit, when I didn’t properly appreciate HARD TARGET. I had already been intoxicated by the unadulterated John Woo of THE KILLER, BULLET IN THE HEAD and HARD BOILED (in that order, I believe) so when I watched his 1993 Hollywood debut I could only see the compromises. American Woo was less violent, less stylish, less emotional and built around the stiff toughness of Van Damme instead of the smooth charisma of Chow Yun Fat.

But with the passage of time comes wisdom and context. From the perspective of today we can see that HARD TARGET stepped deeper into the Woo Zone than any of his subsequent American films save for FACE/OFF. More importantly, it’s clearly a masterpiece among Van Damme vehicles, themselves an enjoyable body of work that can benefit from some Woo. A pessimist sees HARD TARGET as Woo watered down with Van Damme. But I’m an optimist now so I know it’s a refreshing glass of Van Damme spiked with a shot of Woo tequila.

Van Damme plays Chance Boudreaux, itinerant New Orleans merchant marine of spec ops past and Cajun descent. Like Roddy Piper’s John Nada in THEY LIVE or a ronin in a samurai movie, Chance is a human weapon walking around trying to get work, a sheathed sword who represents the poor. We meet him trying to scrounge up enough pocket change for a cup of “tolerable” diner coffee.

mp_hardtargetThe script was rewritten for New Orleans just to (sort of) explain Van Damme’s accent, but it seems organic because it’s a novel setting. We learn that the villains – who last worked out of Bosnia-Herzogovina – have chosen it as their playing field because of its misery, much like Predators choose to hunt in hot climates and war zones. New Orleans doesn’t seem Bosnia-bad, but it’s an eery ghost town. The police are on strike and the people are struggling to find jobs, even lining up for a shitty “direct advertising” gig passing out phone sex flyers. When Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler, DROP ZONE) comes into the diner flashing large bills Chance knows what’s gonna happen. He walks to the exit in slow motion, pauses to adjust the open door with his foot, causing a loud creak like in a spaghetti western, and uses the reflection in the window to get a look at the guys who are getting a look at her. When they try to rob her outside he beats them up. Mostly in slow motion.

That’s the secret to this being one of the best Van Damme vehicles. He’d done several of his classics already (BLOODSPORT, KICKBOXER, LIONHEART), but this is the first one directed by an artist dedicated to using all the brushes he has to paint a glorious portrait of The Muscles From Brussels. Introducing him with a cool camera move into his black trench-coated back, dissolve edits between closeups of his eyes, his earring, his, mouth, all accompanied by bluesy acoustic slide guitar, he’s like a Cajun Superman. Sometimes he walks in or out of a scene like THE RIGHT STUFF, the wind blowing his greasy mullet and coat. Woo slathers Chance and his world with style, and yes, at times there are doves fluttering past him, or in one case giving him a message. (Woo says that dove represents “The Holy Spirit.”)

When he interrupts that robbery he pulls open his coat like a cowboy revealing his weapon, but there’s no gun, no holster even. Just the leg he’s about to kick them with.

In his blue work shirt, getting shit done, Chance Boudreaux is a soaring tribute to the greatness of The Working Man. He does not let abject poverty, or his lack of a driver’s license, define his self worth. His initial motivation for helping Natasha (through a two-day freelance missing persons gig that he initially turned down) is to raise exactly $217 to pay his overdue union dues so he can take an able seaman gig.

The missing person is Natasha’s dad, a special forces veteran she’d been out of touch with. They discover that he’d been homeless, and then that he’s dead. Following the trail gets Chance mixed up with a dangerous criminal organization led by cruel Emil Fouchon (the great Lance Henriksen) and his psychotic right hand man Pik Van Cleef (Arnold Vosloo, Darkman himself in DARKMAN 2 and 3). They run a service providing rich assholes with the opportunity to literally hunt homeless veterans. They choose the prey based on skills and lack of family connections. With this one they screwed up.

Remember I told you how they offered BLADE to Denzel Washington, and even though he’s a great actor I don’t think it would’ve been as good? Here’s a movie that Woo wanted to give to Kurt Russell, but he was booked up (I guess that would maybe be with UNLAWFUL ENTRY, CAPTAIN RON, TOMBSTONE?). Universal had already wanted to use the script as a vehicle for Van Damme, who flew to Hong Kong to meet with Woo, the top choice of producer Jim Jacks. Woo added more action, knowing Van Damme could handle it. Russell would’ve technically given a better acting performance, I imagine, but it would’ve been a Chance Boudreaux who doesn’t jump up and kick a guy in the face while he’s driving at him on a motorcycle, and what would be the point of that? Peppering the gun fights with all those kicks is a major component of what makes the movie so fun.

still_hardtarget2If you compare this action to HARD BOILED, like I used to, it can’t compete. The MPAA and the regular Hollywood shooting schedule saw to that. Woo only had 65 days of shooting for HARD TARGET; for HARD BOILED he had 123 days, with 40 for the hospital scenes alone. But comparing it to other Van Damme films or similar it really excels. The stand out scene is the absolutely crazy motorcycle vs. car duel. Chance’s motorcycle is leaking gas through a bullet hole, so he plays chicken with his pursuers’ vehicle while standing up on top of the bike, firing two guns. Then he crashes, rolls over the car onto the street, turns and shoots at the car as it runs over the bike and then explodes. There are also many fiery explosions caused by Chance’s uncle Douvee (Wilford Brimley, REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR) when a team of mercenaries chase Chance and Natasha to his isolated homestead. Poor guy has to pull the self destruct on his moonshining rig. That couldn’t have been an easy decision.

In fact this movie is so serious about fire that Henriksen does a major fire stunt himself. It’s very noticeable that he suddenly has his hair doused in fire proof gel, but it’s worth it to see his face while he’s running around in flames instead of the usual face-obscured stunt double approach.

Woo wanted Fouchon to be a little more developed than he ended up in the released movie, but even there he has a great Woo-villain touch: a scene where he plays piano, intercut with a montage of hunting humans. (The workprint version also had stock footage of big game hunting, from what I remember of seeing the bootleg years ago.) He might as well be that asshole teacher in WHIPLASH, though, because despite his musical talent he has no soul. When one of his rich clients feels bad and wants to let his prey live, Fouchon does not hesitate to kill the client. There’s also a brutal scene where he has Pik terrorize one of their employees by snipping off his ear lobe with shears. They make these guys so threatening you forget they can’t kickbox.

Screenwriter Chuck Pfarrer (who also plays Natasha’s dad in the opening) is a fomer Navy SEAL who wrote NAVY SEALS, DARKMAN and BARB WIRE and now does military non-fiction books like SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden. I gotta give him credit for his genre chops on this one. It’s the classic MOST DANGEROUS GAME premise mixed with the mystery-loner-hired-to-help-a-lady and includes very good versions of the badass drifter, the heartless villain, the sadistic henchman, the eccentric family member and more. It does a good job of establishing this environment of New Orleans despair and hopelessness. Just about the only gainfully employed characters are a waitress and the nice cop (Kasi Lemmons, CANDYMAN) who is supposed to work a desk job but everyone else is on strike. When she’s (SPOILER) shot dead and left in the middle of the street it’s sad enough without remembering that this was her birthday.

These bad days for the working class play well against the villainous plot where rich people kill the poor for a thrill. According to the book Not Bad For a Human by Lance Henriksen and Joseph Maddrey, it was Henriksen’s idea to have the prey wear money belts that they (supposedly) are allowed to keep if they make it over the river alive. It’s supposed to show that Fouchon is serious about playing the game, he genuinely wants the challenge of the hunt. I think it makes it even crueler though because he’s forcing these people to bet their lives against what’s not necessarily a life changing amount of money. I mean, $10,000 is a whole lot to them or to me, but it’s not gonna buy them a house or last ’em much more than a year or so if they still can’t find work. I guess they could use it to get the fuck out of New Orleans.

“I need to tone down a lot of the violence. Well, everything has to be toned down,” Woo told Vibe at the time. The New York Times reported that “The first preview of ‘Hard Target,’ in May, was a disaster. The audience of young males laughed at some of the devices — freeze frames, dissolves, slow motion, choreographed violence — that are the director’s stylistic trademarks.” Woo says, “I wanted to use visuals to tell the story, instead of dialogue, and they didn’t get the picture.” He, of course, was right. But after MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 he must’ve given up on Americans ever agreeing with him.

Woo had to submit the movie to the MPAA in six different cuts before he got the R-rating. But those weren’t the only editing struggles. Van Damme tried to make his own cut that featured more of himself and less of Henriksen. The New York Times says he “was more or less blocked by the producers,” but that the studio brought in Bud Smith (SORCERER, DARKMAN) to replace original editor Bob Murawski (ARMY OF DARKNESS, THE HURT LOCKER) and “rough up” “Mr. Woo’s elegant pace.”  Producer Terence Chang was willing to go on record that “John’s original cut was so much better, but for the test screening they recruited Van Damme fans, and they said, ‘We don’t like this. There’s too little karate stuff.'”

The poor quality bootleg of the workprint is about 20 minutes longer than the theatrical release. This time around I watched it from the thankfully-region-free British blu-ray, which at least has an extra 2 minutes of violence. But I think in any of these compromised forms it still managed to make it through the grinder with some personality intact. It’s a heightened brew of violence and style with both the surface and the texture of a good crazy action movie. Credit to Pfarrer or whoever came up with absurd ideas like Chance punching out a rattlesnake, biting its rattle off and leaving it as a sentient boobytrap. And it’s worth mentioning that this is one of the few movies where Wilford Brimley with a bow and arrow rides a horse in slow motion away from an explosion. That’s usually how I try to sell it to people.

still_hardtarget

They didn’t really make movies like HARD TARGET back then, and they definitely don’t now. It’s a real treasure.

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Jibber-jabber (211 Responses)

  1. Highest compliment I can give a review: God fucking damn I really want to watch HARD TARGET right now.

  2. Great review Vern. I am glad to see you revisit this one.

  3. I love Hard Target, it’s crazy. I’d seen The Killer and I’m pretty sure i’d seen Hard Boiled before this one came out, and although it’s not on a par with them it’s still pretty great. I don’t think his style suits Western films as well as it does his Hong Kong stuff though, as much as i enjoyed some of his US stuff. I was glad when he went back home and did Red Cliff, it totally restored my faith in him.

  4. I don’t even know where to begin. I look forward to being done with work so I can go home and write. Sorry Vern for being such a nag about this review.

  5. I met Henriksen last year (he’s super nice btw), and he had no idea about JCVD trying to horn in on LH’s action. Maybe he was just being polite. He did say that John Woo was the only person he’d let set him on fire. Twice. Top film. Shameless plug of my own review:

    Review: Hard Target

    A quick re-watch of Expendables 2 the other day reminded me of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s turn as the maniacal Jean Vilain. We’ve spoken about many of cinema’s greatest badasses on t…

  6. This is one of my favorites. Still my favorite New Orleans-set movie and adaptation of Most Dangerous Game (unofficial I know). It’s why I can’t get fully behind the sequel because to me Hard Target IS New Orleans (also John Woo won’t be directing it). I don’t care that much for Woo’s other Hollywood movies, even Face/Off. Yeah Just about anyone of Woo’s Hong Kong efforts blow this one away in quality but this one is so damn fun and continually inventive in how it tells it’s well-worn story that it doesn’t matter.

    I used to own the bootleg ‘director’s cut’ but do not anymore. I do prefer that version but like Vern I still think the released versions still offer a good alternative. Hopefully Shout Factory gets this one of these days and does one of their awesome special editions that includes it (preferably remastered).

    So then to those who’ve seen the released versions and the bootleg version: do you prefer the probably Sam Raimi-directed theatrical Fouchon death (him taking the grenade out of his pants) or the probably Woo-directed bootleg version where Fouchon solemnly accepts his fate?

  7. I’m glad this finally got another review. It has always been my favourite van Damme movie and also my favourite American John Woo joint.

    And I definitely second the Lance Henriksen love. If you ever have the chance to visit a convention that he attends, do it! He has a million cool stories to tell and is a true class act who appreciates his fans.

  8. HARD TARGET was my gateway drug to the Woo Zone, so I fucking loved it right away. The action was so vivid and intricate, so much more detailed and dynamic than what I was used to from the American/European action directors I was used to. It made me check out the previous work of this crazy Hong Kong guy that Sam Raimi had imported at great expense. I immediately saw that these HK motherfuckers are on a whole nother level, and I never looked back. So thank you, HARD TARGET, for changing my life.

  9. I first saw HARD TARGET on a third generation copy of a lasedisc-to VHS version of it. I loved it at the time. And was like Majestyk said a gateway into HK action. I don´t love it as much now, but I appreciate what it brought to my doorstep.

  10. flyingguillotine

    April 26th, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Very similarly… I came into this off having first seen Woo’s HK stuff, and HARD TARGET seemed compromised by the studio dinosaur action filmmaking of the time, that bleak post-80s era during which American action cinema seemed plodding and weak in comparison to what was coming out of Asia.

    But upon second viewing, after I was able to stop watching through the filter of expectations created by other movies, I fell in love with HARD TARGET.

    On kind of a broader note, I think Van Damme is a vital conduit between Eastern and Western action filmmaking. He was the Westerner who went East for KICKBOXER and BLOODSPORT, and then in the ’90s he was the guy who starred in the vehicles for Hong Kong directors trying to penetrate the U.S. studio system. JCVD is the Marco Polo of ’80s and ’90s action cinema.

  11. The Original Paul

    April 26th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    I now want to rewatch HARD TARGET. I remember Wilford Brimley being awesome (huge surprise, right?) and Bishop from ALIENS looking very evil and un-Bishop-like. Other than that I don’t remember too much about it.

  12. It’s also got one of my all-time favorite threats: “I have to come back here, I cut myself a steak.”

  13. Majestyk’s got it right. Vosloo’s delivery of that cutting a steak line, especially after having cut the dude’s earlobe off, is fucking cold. FWIW, I was 14 when “Hard Target” came out and I was already a huge fan of JCVD and Woo’s works. I was there in the theater the day it opened and I saw it in the theater two more times. I kept trying to bring people to the movie, but most weren’t having it. It is still my faovrite JCVD film. The Killer is my favorite action film of all time, so that’s obviously my favorite Woo film.

  14. The line is actually “I come back here, I cut me a steak.” So much better. Poetry.

  15. Love this movie, but I was the opposite in viewing order. I saw this before I’d heard of John Woo, so I wasn’t yet used to his stylistic flourishes, and totally thought this film was ridiculous with it’s overuse of slo-mo. Then after seeing Hard Boiled and having my mind blown, I was able to re-watch this and see it for the genius it is. I’d love to see this work-print I’d heard about, and keep hoping that someone releases it, though I think there are some scenes on YouTube that I watched.
    Looks like we may be in for another retrospective. Looking forward to more Woo Zone U.S.A.

  16. Haven’t read the review yet, but I used to own a bootleg of HARD TARGET on VHS back in the day that was a director’s cut or workprint. It was really awesome, better than the theatrical version.

  17. I watched this one long after I had seen Woo’s Hong Kong films and Face/Off, so I remember thinking it was relatively subdued. I rewatched a few clips after reading this review, and there’s some beautifully controlled chaos in this movie. One of my favorite moves Woo pulls is when he has two guys separated by a wall just talking to each other before they turn around and try to kill the other dude. It’s a great trick to prime the audience for a great action scene.

  18. Anybody like the Yancy Butler love scene in the Workprint?

  19. He cut himself a steak with a shotgun.

  20. Henry Swanson's my name

    April 27th, 2016 at 12:45 am

    I always loved Vosloo’s reaction when he shoots the guy in the backseat of the car.

    “Oooo … oh ho ho”.

    In my opinion Woo has a wonderful American action film trilogy in BROKEN ARROW, HARD TARGET and FACE/OFF. I love that 90s vibe combined with Woo’s schtick. It’s majestic.

  21. I love BROKEN ARROW. It is so by-the-numbers that it hurts. But somehow it works. It moves fast, Travolta is amazing to watch and the set pieces are good as well as Hans Zimmers score. I used to watch the shit out of this on VHS.

  22. I’ve defended this movie in a lot of discussions over the years. Between ’93 and ’97 it was the only real proof that Woo still had it. But, sadly, a lot of people didn’t see that.

  23. I too had issues convincing people that this one was great. I was a tad late seeing this one and by the time that I had, the action landscape was changing and Van Damme was starting to become a joke to the general people. By the time I had finally rented this one on VHS, I had already seen Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled because I had just discovered HK action films via a friend’s borrowed copy of Jackie Chan’s Police Story and I was hooked. So yeah there is probably some nostalgia mixed in with my love of this one because I watched when I was discovering the director’s work and his countries particular brand of action cinema and it was him bringing that aesthetic to a America in an action movie filmed in New Orleans. What I’m saying is, if I have to be surrounded by people who keep insisting every awful cartoon from their youth is great because they saw it when they were 5, I can say that a great action movie is a great action movie because I saw it when I was young.

  24. That picture of Wilford Brimley was my MySpace profile picture for…pretty much the entire run of MySpace.

  25. Weird. I never had a problem with telling people that this movie is worth checking out. Maybe because Germans sometimes seemed fonder of the American 80s and early 90s action movies and their stars than American were.

    But normally it went like: “HARD TARGET is cool. Maybe van Damme’s best!”
    “Really? Never saw that one. I have to check it out.” or “Yeah, it really is cool.”

    Even my mother liked it, when she caught it on TV one night and she isn’t that much into action. (But she likes “That guy from MILLENNIUM”, “The Mummy” and was even excited about the “Joxer” cameo.)

  26. For a bit there in the U.S. there was a backlash against the 80s action star. I remember a lot of parodies and jokes about Stallone, Van Damme, and Schwarzenegger. They were mostly dumb jokes and parodies, but they colored how I watched these movies when I was a kid. I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate something like Hard Target until I got older. (Although I still watched plenty of films by Stallone, Van Damme, and Schwarzenegger anyway).

    (And I too had that Wilford Brimley photo as a Facebook pic for a while).

  27. First of all, thank you for reviewing this one, Vern. What with your reappraisal of LW1 – RIGGS & MURTAUGH: THE BEGINNING and now this – just fantastic (and cheering, too – after last week’s awful news).

    The final lines of your review are the ones that sum it all up. HARD TARGET is one of the last of it’s kind (a bit like Chance Boudreaux himself). Did any other action film feature “unironic guitar noodling as hero stares pensively into the distance” after this one? Probably not.

    There’s just so much to love, and for me, it’s easily Woo’s best U.S. effort (and probably JCVD’s finest hour, as well), it’s class-war message more potent now then it was back in 1993: “Poor people get bored, too” – what a line.

    I wonder, does Kasi Lemmon’s cop dies because a) she’s served her purpose or b) because she’s a no-good scab?

    Also, I’m hoping HARD TARGET 2: NO CHANCE has Scott Adkins’ character trained by the ghost of Uncle Douvee.

    Here’s to sincere action films, guys.

  28. You guys have said it all. Only thing I could add is that whenever I feel blue (like last Thursday) I just remember a mulleted JCVD punching a snake and then I feel so much better again.

    Only thing this one was missing was a good ol melachonly Van Damme montage with a Stan Bush song playing over it BLOODSPORT and KICKBOXER style.

  29. I remember going to see Cliffhanger with my dad. They had a preview for Hard Target. I didn’t know about it because the internet wasn’t really covering film like they do now. It’s an awesome trailer. When the voice says “from internationally acclaimed action director John Woo” I marked out so hard. I don’t know why I never saw it in the theater. I watched the shit out of this movie.

    The first time I saw the workprint was this amazing experience. The final portion of the gun fight is scored to the Aliens score which adds a coolness factor.

    The current region one bluray is the longer international cut which keeps in tact the majority of the cut violence during the beginning, the motorcycle chase scene and final action scenes.

    In some ways the uncut Woo is some of his greatest stuff because Chow Yun Fat never shot a guy a couple of times, used a spin kick to the guys face and then shoots him a few more times. The unrealistic amount of bullets used to kill Pick is so amazing. I love this fucking movie.

  30. I forgot to mention that Cannon chunk of shit from a few years before Hard Target, Avenging Force it was called. It was yet another remake of The Most Dangerous Game, also set in New Orleans. It wasn’t very good.

  31. Little Known Fact: Kurt Russell actually completed 90% of principal photography on Hard Target, but this footage was lost (and its very existence now debated) after a T-800 was sent back to 1991 to redress the errors of this counter-history and ensure Kurt’s full participation in Captain Ron.

  32. I’ve recently learned that several of my friends have never heard of CAPTAIN RON, which made me realize that it really seems to be a kinda forgotten 90s Disney flick. I haven’t seen it on TV for years, not even the several Disney Channels show it (And our Disney Cinemagic even shows that one where Chevy Chase is Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ stepdad every few weeks!) and if some blog makes some 90s and early 00s Disney nostalgia list, you can be sure it will have COOL RUNNINGS, HOCUS POCUS, most likely even HEAVYWEIGHTs, but no CAPTAIN RON! Come on, it may not be a career highlight for Russel or Martin Short, but it doesn’t deserve that treatment!

  33. In my heart of hearts Captain Ron will always be an ancestor to Mr. Snake Plissken Esq.

  34. I watched CAPTAIN RON for the first time in 20 years a few months ago. If you’d have asked me beforehand “Is CAPTAIN RON the kind of movie with tits and car chases?” I’d have said “No, of course not, it’s a family comedy, you dunce.” And I’d have owed you an apology, because CAPTAIN RON has tits and car chases. (Also that dunce crack was out of line.)

  35. The best way to describe the awesomeness of this one to the uninitiated is by telling tham as a fellow JCVD fan and friend of mine so eloquently put it that “Chance Bourdreaux and Wilford Brimley are the Riggs and Murtaugh of 1993.”

  36. Or “This is the one in which Van Damme punches a snake. And also where he roundhouse kick people after filling them with dozens of bullets”

  37. You could also entice them with tales of Van Damme’s mullet. It’s a flawless specimen. Museum quality. Possibly the finest example of the form ever seen not on a Mexican tag-team wrestler. People really seem to like feeling superior to mullets and the people who have them so that might get some of the doubters in the door.

  38. ^ True dat. The man makes the mullet, not vice-versa.

    Still, the mullet is almost like some distinctive prehistoric dinosaur. Justifiably retro-admired, but not likely to be back any time soon.

  39. Have you checked out John Woo’s BMW The Hire Short, Vern?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcmn32s6ZSQ&nohtml5=False

  40. I got a press copy of every short in that series on a slick-looking DVD back when it premiered. I brought it to a movie party and everyone thought I was SO COOL. Now I see it in used DVD bins for a buck all the time. Guess I wasn’t that cool after all.

  41. Would you believe i only found out about The Hire series a few weeks ago? Some serious talent was involved in this. Tony Scott, Ang Lee, David Fincher among others.

  42. That was why the internet wanted Clive Owen as James Bond. Now they want that Superman dude.

  43. Or Idris Elba. Personally I’d prefer Jackie Chan.

  44. Yes that is an admitance that I like THE TUXEDO. Jackie made Roger Moore proud.

  45. One of the few fans of THE TUXEDO as well. Jackie and Jennifer Love Hewitt have good chemistry together.

  46. Some fantastic lines in this one through out: wakey wakey fat Fuck!

  47. Brodie / Felix: I think you guys should look at yourselves as role models and thus choose your words likely. I saw Tuxedo once and disliked and rented it on VHS a few years later when I was on one my (common) Jackie Chan kicks and couldn’t make it 15 minutes in. If you guys say you like it, tools like me will want to rewatch it to see if I missed something and just didn’t appreciate it. I was fine with agreeing that they botched a fun idea for Chan and it deserved the ridicule it got while adding that it is probably better than the wretched Rush Hour 3 (debatable if it is better or worse than Around the World in 80 Days or Spy Next Door though). So please, think of the sheep.
    -like how wabalicious informed us that there was another New Orleans-set Most Dangerous Game movie that he says is no good but my interest was piqued and I watched the trailer and it is one of those glorious Canon trailer that makes it looks awesome (“When revenge isn’t enough!) and now I know I need to give it a shot even though I trust wabalicious when they say it is not good.

    This is the Internet, so surely they are campaigning for Nathan Fillion or Bruce Campbell to be the next Bond when we here know the only ones that can play him are either Michael Jai White or Scott Adkins or Gina Carlo (or Jackie Chan who I still want to see play Queen Elizabeth ever since someone mentioned that in thread complaining about white-washing casting).

  48. Hey, i agree with you mostly about THE TUXEDO. It’s one of the lesser Chan films. Better than Rush Hour 3 (Boy was that awlful) and The Spy Next Door. But still not a good Jackie film.

    I will say though that there are things to like. The zany plot. Jackie dancing to James Brown and his chemistry with Jennifer Love Hewitt.

  49. “It’s the classic MOST DANGEROUS GAME premise mixed with the mystery-loner-hired-to-help-a-lady and includes very good versions of the badass drifter, the heartless villain, the sadistic henchman, the eccentric family member and more.”

    Idea: A review series focusing on the first occurrences/standard-setting moments of each of these tropes of badass cinema.

    Maybe that’s too broad. I was just thinking how much I enjoy when Vern identifies the contours of something like “badass juxtaposition”. This line in this review made me wonder about where some of these things first appeared…

  50. Jek – I like that idea, but I’m not sure I know how I would figure out what were the first appearances. I image many of them would be in old westerns.

  51. Jek/Vern – I think that’s a very interesting idea too. Not as if the Comments don’t already kinda serve this function, but you could make it more of an audience challenge; i.e., can you come up with an earlier example of this trope…obviously, you’d have to have some pretty strict rules or there would be Bedlam. Or approach it like your Super-Kumite challenge (again, maybe your readers could vote and give their justifications; obviously, you couldn’t limit the movies to ones that are new to you like you did previously…otherwise, well, duh).

    Actually, this would take some real time to properly approach and organize…but it could be pretty damn interesting.

  52. The Original Paul

    April 28th, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Well the sadistic henchman was a trope of noir, long before it became a staple of James Bond movies (there’s a nice example in the Bogart / Bacall Raymond Chandler adaptation THE BIG SLEEP, and this is pretty much a stock character for any movie based on a Ross MacDonald novel). The badass drifter I’d associate with John Wayne, although I’ve not seen enough of his movies to really give an estimate of how accurate that would be. And I’m guessing that eccentric uncles pre-date “talkies”, but I couldn’t give you a specific example. Basically my film history knowledge, at least for things not related to bodyshock horror or film noir, is probably going to be very lacking in comparison to others here.

    As for “heartless villains”, well, they’ve been around for ages (the 1920s-1940s crime fiction genre pretty much relied upon them), but as far as the film adaptations go, I couldn’t come up with anything more appropriate than the villain of Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949). (Would it be a spoiler to give away the identity of a surprise villain in a movie that’s almost seventy years old?) A charismatic but utterly wretched character whose actions cause horrific and widespread pain and death, but who rationalises all of this with beyond-nihilistic reasoning: that suffering isn’t just a by-product of progress, it’s a necessary part of it. Hence the famous “cuckoo-clock” ad-lib.

    But 1949 is never going to be the earliest example of “heartless villainy”, although that particular character has a good claim to be the “best”. Like Jek and Don have said, the categories seem unfeasibly broad. But hey, if it’s an excuse to discuss our favorite old movies, I’m for it.

  53. You forgot to mention VanDamme’s explanation for his name:

    “My Momma took one.”

    Gret review for an great movie. And that Wilford Brimley screencap is still my on my facebook page.

  54. I guess the “classic MOST DANGEROUS GAME premise” can be traced back to Cornell Wilde’s THE NAKED PREY (1965). Three men get captured by natives in Africa and then set free to be hunted. It’s a great movie, and if anyone know of an earlier version of this story I would really like to hear about it.

  55. How about the 1932 film adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game.

  56. TURKEY SHOOT is another great version. Weird and fun ozploitation

  57. Yeah, it would be hard to definitively say, “THIS is the first time character type ___ was ever in a movie.”

    And you’ve covered some of that ground with series like The Rookies, by talking about the beginnings of director’s obsessions that we became aware of through later works.

    On the other hand, it’s cool to think about when we first started to understand, as movie watchers, that the floating round robot with needles menacing Princess Leia was a version of the sadistic henchman. Maybe it’s more interesting as a personal question than a historical one.

  58. Heartless villains go at least as far back as THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY in 1903. Arguably sadistic henchmen too, depending on just how sadistic you require them to be. There are criminal masterminds leading gangs of villains as of FANTÔMAS in 1913 (and maybe earlier, if any of the Sherlock Holmes movies to that point featured Moriarty).

    I’d be surprised if THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME’s plot turned up in film before 1932, credited or otherwise, but the story’s from 1924, so it’s possible.

  59. If we are talking about criminal masterminds on films Dr Mabuse is an early version of that. I love those films.

  60. I’ve been saying for years they should make some new Dr Mabuse movies, but modern German cinema is so terrified of anything slightly fantastic, that it will most likely never happen. (We got a pretty good comic 15 or so years ago, though.)

  61. I’d also like to see another Dr. Mabuse movie, but you’d reaaally need to find the right director and lead actor. Mabuse movies are about more than just a master criminal, they’re sort of abstract, conspiratorial fever dreams. One guy who might be up for the job is Denis Villenueve (in PRISINORS or ENEMY mode), if you wouldn’t feel weird about a French-Canadian directing such a distinctly German series.

  62. Maybe instead of doing a series of the first appearance of those kinds of tropes, pick your favorite example of it, or where it was used in a totally original or wacky way.

  63. Very amateurish of me! I knew about the 1932 version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. And with a little research I see that there’s a handful of adaptions of this particular set up that predates THE NAKED PREY. But that doesn’t change the fact that Cornell Wilde’s movie is pretty damn great.

  64. Inspired by Jek Porkins I will dedicate this coming weekend to watching thia back to back with AVENGING FORCE. Now I just need to get me a copy of SURVIVING THE GAME.

  65. I have been silently lurking for some time now and have not had the chance to post like I used to/want to but the news that they are making a HARD TARGET 2 with Scott Adkins has brought me out of the shadows. If they gave me the chance (and this thing actually gets a theatrical release) I am ready to preorder my tickets now like this was THE FORCE AWAKENS.

  66. Just when I thought I couldn’t geek out any more about HT2 I looked it up on IMDB and noticed Michael Dudikoff is listed as part of the cast. This just keeps getting better and better.

  67. I think it’s fair to say one of the main reasons why Hard Target is so beloved by people like me is the John Woo gunfights. I just don’t know why they would bother calling it Hard Target 2 unless there are John Woo style gunfights.

  68. well here is the trailer, actually looks way more fun that I thought it might. It definately seems to lean heavy on the fights but what I saw looked cool. Kind of reminds me of one of those No Retreat, No Surrender type movies Corey Yuen did in the 90s.

  69. Ooops

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  70. Sternshein, I agree that the combo of Woo’s filmatism & a southern fried JCVD are what made the original special, but if you are making a sequel to HT and just keeping the premise Adkins is a great fit.

  71. Charles, did you watch the trailer?

  72. Yes, I have seen it. Looks promising. I like Adkins and HT rebooted as moderately budgeted DTV franchise could be a great look for him and action film fans.

    Who knows they could bring back Chance in future installments.

  73. With Yancy Butler i hope.

  74. The Undefeated Gaul

    June 16th, 2016 at 2:17 am

    Shame it’s directed by Roel Reiné though. Fellow countryman or not, that pretty much guarantees there’s no chance this will even come close to the quality of any of the Adkins/Florentine joints.

  75. I am not sure. THE MARINE 4: MOVING TARGET is one of the better Action DTVs i’ve seen recently.

  76. Needs more mullet, but looks a serviceable enough sequel, I guess.

    Adkins is always solid, Knepper’s Henriksen impression isn’t bad and I like the way they keep cutting away from Rhona Mitra – maybe they’re hoping people will mistake her for Kate Beckinsale.

  77. The Undefeated Gaul

    June 16th, 2016 at 5:20 am

    THE MARINE 4 is directed by William Kaufman according to IMDb. I will admit I’m basing my opinion on only three films that I’ve seen of Reiné, two of which were from the 90s when he was trying to make vaguely international films with Dutch casts (THE DELIVERY and ADRENALINE) that were terrible. From his DTV action era I only saw DEATH RACE 2, which was just as terrible, so I gave up on him after that.

    I will watch this one though, if only to support Adkins.

  78. THE MARINE 2 was a disappointment. Just generic and not anywhere near the goofy fun of the first THE MARINE.

  79. On the one hand, I’m kinda happy they didn’t just remake the first one. But on the other hand, I’m a little disappointed that they just remade Surviving The Game instead. Sans Busey, which is not cool.

  80. Hard Target 2 will be streaming on Netflix starting September 6th.

  81. Yes Shoot the American Netflix feed.

  82. My copy of HARD TARGET 2 will arrive tomorrow. I am pretty excited. I was also thinking of how to make HARD TARGET into a television show as an incredible derivative show in which every episode a new bunch of unfortunate rich assholes gets another hard target, an new martial arts actor to try and kill but fail spectacularly. It could be a showcase show for new talents.

  83. If you judge it on cheapquel-standards you may enjoy it. I thought it was okay (a little better than Reiné’s other movies I feel). Good luck!

  84. As long as it is not THE MARINE 2-Roel Reine I get, then I am happy.

  85. So I’ve been watching a lot of JCVD movies lately. Revisiting old classics and enjoying them even more than I remembered, discovering classics that I hadn’t seen yet, etc. I have been loving every single minute of it. But then I went and watched Hard Target. I remember seeing this when it first came out and not being impressed but I figured I would enjoy it a lot more this time. Unfortunately, this movie is a steaming pile of dog**** and you all appear to have lost your ******* minds. I hate this movie so much. Everything about it is terrible – the acting, the dialogue, Van Damme’s hair, the score, the annoyingly random slow motion. And not terrible in an entertaining way, just boring and bad. I reached a point with about 10 minutes left in the movie where I said, “how did John Woo make such a boring gun fight?” and just turned it off without finishing it (I almost never do that).

    Vern – you were right about this one the first time. It’s awful.

  86. Who wants to see an old German TV ad for HARD TARGET? (Starts at 0:33, in case the vid doesn’t start at the right point.)

    https://youtu.be/7eJC9z4ar1k?t=33s

  87. My feelings aren’t as strong as Hallsy, but I’m sad to report that what was probably one of my Top 10 favorite movies growing up has not survived a rewatch. Robocop, Die Hard, Predator, Terminator – they’ve all managed to be even better as an adult – but Hard Target minus nostalgia goggles is just a giant mess. The characters are more bland and nowhere as awesome as I remember them being. The story is muddled, especially that endless slog of a first half. (You can tell production was a mess by the fact that Kasi Lemmons has a ridiculous accent for only one scene and never again) I’m not going to say the dialogue is “bad” because I’m still not sure I understand most of it. I mean, I recognize the words that people are saying, but it’s all an endless succession of non-sequiturs that make the whole thing feel like you’re watching an inaccurately dubbed version of a foreign movie. Like “Boudreaux is the target! YOU…are a fucking buffalo!” What does that mean?? Or when JCVD shoots the guy a dozen times and says “Sorry about the shirt”. Huh? Or the infamous exchange between Pik and Chance – “I’ve been looking for you./ You’ve been looking in all the wrong places./Good. Because I know you wouldn’t want to….hurt my feelings”. WTF does that even mean? Van Damme saying every line like he’s pronouncing it phonetically doesn’t help – there’s entire scenes where I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand what he’s saying, which is weird since he’d already been in a dozen English language movies by then (and given better performances – he’s honestly better in Cyborg than he is here).

    And time to turn in my membership card here because God help me – I didn’t even like the action scenes this time. Yes, speaking as a kid who spent my entire high school life chasing down John Woo VHS movies in Asian grocery stores and on the internet instead of y’know, chasing girls – I’m heartbroken to say the action scenes are just awkward and clunky this time. The jarring edits and cutaways (probably for rating purposes) really mess up the flow of the action like you’re watching a TV-PG edit of an R-rated movie, and like Hallsy said, the slow-mo seems to be turned on and off at random. I really, really hope this movie is the anomaly and Woo’s other movies age better, because I don’t want to live in a world where The Killer or Hard Boiled aren’t any good.

  88. It’s not going to change your mind about the dialogue or whatever but the work print will make you appreciate the action again. Plus you have added bonus of them using the Aliens theme as the temp track.

    I watch this one all the time and I still love all of it.

  89. Also Van Damme is making fun of the shirt even after death.

  90. Don’t worry, Neal, THE KILLER and HARD BOILED will always be awesome.

  91. Next month the music box in Chicago is showing Hard Boiled at midnight. HK movies at midnight is always the way to go.

  92. See I had the opposite reaction to neal. The 2nd movie I ever watched at the cinema was KICKBOXER. So by the time of this movie I was an established member of the church of JCVD. Like even my dad didn’t get it cause he was a Seagal guy in those days.

    Yet when I finally saw this I felt really let down. About a year before I had seen both HARD BOILED and THE KILLER. So Woo was that dude to me. Lance could do no wrong because of his exceptional turns in ALIENS, PUMPKINHEAD, NEAR DARK & STONE COLD all which I loved. Lastly it had my favorite new action guy at the time. It should’ve worked and blown my 10 year old brain away.

    Instead I felt that both UNISOL and NOWHERE TO RUN where better “JCVD is a drifting fish-out-of-water” showcases. The latter still being criminally underrated to this day.

    It wasn’t till revisiting this in my late 20s that I recognized it’s greatness. It’s just frankly entertaining as hell. Nice brisk pace, charming randomness and character quirks and clunky dialogue that still comes through because it’s sold with genuine conviction. HARD TARGET RULES!

  93. Broddie is the man.

  94. Has anybody heard of a release date for John Woo’s Manhunt? Any links to a non-crappy version of the teaser trailer anywhere?

  95. No sign of either at the moment, Sternshein.

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