Hard Target
Dir: John Woo
Star: Lance Henriksen, Jean Claude Van Damme, Yancy Butler, Arnold Vosloo
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1993
Format: DVD R2

After the mysterious dissappearance of her father. Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) travels to the last address that she had for her father which was in New Orleans. Not even in town 5 minutes and she is the victim of a mugging attempt which was foiled by the speedy reactions of a mysterious cajun in a long dark coat (No. Not Gambit). To help in the search for her missing father, Natasha hires the mysterious cajun called Chance Boudreaux (Jean Claude Van Damme) to act as her guide and general bodyguard in the increasingly lawless city. Chance and Natasha eventually discover her fathers severely burnt corpse but Chance discovers something which indicates that his death was not the result of an accident which the police believe it was and the evidence points to murder. As they dig deeper into the seedier side of New Orleans, Chance and Natasha discover a sinister game run for the rich and privelaged which preys upon the city's homeless veterans. The game is a "hunt" where bored tycoons and businessmen pay half a million dollars for the privelage and thrill of hunting the most dangerous prey in the world, but to make it a little more challenging they hunt combat veterans who are down and out in the city. The operation is run by ruthless mercenaries Mr. Fouchon Lance Henriksen and his assistant Pik Van Cleaf Arnold Vosloo who now have their sights set on a new target..........Chance Boudreaux

The first of John Woo's first American "breakthrough" movies that he made after a very successful career in Hong Kong. Despite the fact that this is generally an underrated and overlooked movie it is unfortunately far from the breakthrough movie he had anticipated. The primary stumbling block in my opinion is that the film results in being a stereotypical showcase for Jean Claude Van Damme. The film has a pretty good story courtesy of Chuck Pfarrer which is essentially an update / reworking of the 30's thriller The Most Dangerous Game. The concept is simple enough and except for the intrusive lack of acting ability of Van Damme the film works quite well and merrily bounds along at a fair old pace laying out the story and capitalising upon the excellent action direction of John Woo.

As you would expect from a John Woo movie, the director brings his obligatory unfeasible motorcycle stunts, raucous gun play, breathtaking fight scenes, white doves strategically appearing on screen all held together with his artistic flair and superb photography. For some moviegoers John Woo is an acquired taste and his particualr brand of action movies don't always translate very well to the Western cinema audiences. Woo's trademark stylish and artistic precision is unfortunately wasted for the most part in this movie as it develops a need to be a Van Damme vehicle as opposed to an original action thriller, in order to boost his flagging career no doubt. The story obviously had some legs before the involvement of Van Damme who uses the story as an excuse for more of his usual impractical balletic spinning kicks. Most of the action in the film is well choreographed by Chuck Pfarrer and fellow former Navy SEAL Mark Stefanich who also acted as Van Damme's stunt double and their work is well captured on film. Pfarrer and Stefanich were looking for a degree of authenticity for the film's action which is why they did the choreography and advisory work themselves and on the whole they appear to have done well.

To be honest Jean Claude Van Damme isn't quite as wooden as he normally is and is almost acting in places. He seems to have allowed his physique to slip and is less developed here and thankfully this is one of his later movies so we aren't subjected to one of his "butt shots" which seemed to creep into all of his movies at some stage. Before The Mummy, Arnold Vosloo treated us to an impressive and menacing performance as the chilling South African henchman Van Cleaf. The chemistry between him and his on screen senior Fouchon, superbly played by Lance Henriksen is excellent as they form a dastardly team. These two characters are a major plus to the story and offer more to this tense thriller than the 2 dimensional and banal character of Boudreaux portrayed by Van Damme. Relative newcomer Yancy Butler looks pretty and manages to provide a reasonable supporting performance as Natasha, but nothing especially outstanding or exceptional I'm afraid.

Certainly not one of John Woo's best films but as an action thriller it is tolerable and even entertaining at times but this is a film that should have been a Hong Kong movie. Had Hard Target been made as a Hong Kong movie it would almost certainly worked far better than this and would have been a different movie altogether. In this form the film just doesn't quite work even with the visual direction of John Woo which is a pity as he is a stunning director who deserved a better collaboration than what he got for this film. The problem does not lie with Sam Raimi or Rob Tapert and certainly not with the story by Chuck Pfarrer whom has written movies such as Navy SEALS, Darkman and The Jackal. It is a pity that it took Woo several further movies before he finally "broke" the American box office with Face Off and recovered from the "Van Dammage" caused by this film.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Good quality image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Explosive Soundtrack
Features Theatrical trailer
Dull static menu
Production notes
Cast & Film makers notes
Verdict A rather poor and unimaginative release of the film. No real "extras" to speak of, therefore very little to add to the "enjoyment" of the disc.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home