Monday, January 4, 2010

'Hard Target' is one that's worth hitting

Hard Target (1993)
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lance Henriksen, Yancy Butler, Kasi Lemmons, Chuck Pfarrer and Arnold Vosloo
Director: John Woo
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

When a young woman (Butler) hires a Cajun drifter (Van Damme) to help locate her father (Pfarrer) among the homeless of New Orleans, they become the latest targets of a group that organizes human hunts for twisted rich people.

Chance (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Nat (Yancy Butler) are on the run
from psychopaths who hunt humans on the streets of New Orleans in "Hard Target".

"Hard Target" is one of the very best action films of the 1990s and a high point in the careers of both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Lance Henriksen. The two men give excellent performances--with Van Damme showing great charisma and Henriksen giving his best performance as a bad guy save his role in the 1991 version of "The Pit and the Pendulum".

This is a film with a sharp script and even sharper action sequences. It's a film where the action set pieces--like a very exciting cemetary chase and a fantastic, extended battle in a warehouse--have been copied so many times that I suspect there are filmmakes out there borrowing from third and fourth generation sources with perhaps not having seen the original.

It's also one of the last truly good action films helmed by John Woo; after this point, he became so full of himself as a filmmaker and so wrapped up in "Woo-isms" that he reduced his stylistic signatures to jokes--like the unintentionally funny and completley inexplicable appearance of doves during a fight scene in "Mission Impossible II".

But, whatever ill winds blew across the careers of the principles involved with this picture later, "Hard Target" is an action movie classic.

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