Hard Target

Hard Target

Notable mainly for being John Woo’s first Western film after his massive success and excellent films in China. All his trademarks are here- slow motion action, stylish violence, tough but quiet male characters, and a ruthless bad guy. It is not up the standards of his early work, or as good as Broken Arrow, but with a strong cast it remains a solid action movie and very entertaining for people who like this sort of thing. Like me.

Van Damme stars as Chance, a tough drifter looking for some work. He sees a young woman being mugged by a gang of crooks and wades in, destroys them without breaking a sweat, and leaves. The young woman, Natasha, played by Yancy Butler is in town trying to find her father who has disappeared. She decides to hire Chance as a protector and help her find her father. They find out that he was homeless and in an attempt to gain some quick cash entered himself in a deadly game run by local sadist Emil Fouchan- Lance Henricksen. He has a team of criminals who are taking advantage of the lax policing in the area, and they hunt helpless humans for sport. He gives his victim the chance to get to a certain point in the city while he chases them with a gun. This is what happened to Natasha’s father, and when Chance becomes involved we know there is going to be fireworks.

Henriksen here hams everything as the bad guy but is still very good and enjoyable to watch. Van Damme tries to be more cool than any of his previous roles and Woo certainly gets good results from him. Butler is excellent as Natasha and steals most scenes, and the rest of the cast is adequate. The action is not as stylish as other Woo films, and we get the sense he is easing his way onto the Western audience. There are some wonderfully over-the-top scenes though, and everything works well. The simple story is also effective, leaving room for the main draw- guns, kicks, explosions, and killings. One of Van Damme’s best.

The DVD, apart from a trailer and cast notes has no extras, but it is cheap and should be part of every Van Damme fan’s collection. If you’re an action or martial arts fan, and you haven’t seen it, snap it up- for 4 quid you’d be a fool to be disappointed.

Feel free to comment- What did you make of this collaboration between Woo and Van Damme? Do you think this is Woo’s best American Movie?

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