Private Luc Deveraux and his sadistic sergeant, Andrew Scott, got killed in Vietnam. The army uses their bodies for a secret project - reanimating dead soldiers as deadly obedient cyborgs. However, their memories come back too.
Jean-Claude Van Damme,
In a violent and corrupt prison, decorated cop Louis Burke must infiltrate the jail to find answers to a number of inside murders. What he finds is a struggle of life and death tied in to his own past.
Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Natasha Binder comes to New Orleans looking for her father, who has gone missing. In doing so, she meets a very hard man called Chance. He helps her find out that her father was killed by an organisation who sell the opportunity to hunt human prey. They are taking advantage of a police strike in New Orleans. Will the Muscles from Brussels win through?Written by
John Hartnup <email@example.com>
A 128 minute workprint of Hard Target does exist in a rare very poor quality video tape dub. It is a rough cut consisting of all shot footage, much in which was unnecessary and would later be trimmed down to the 116-minute test screening after further refinements. It is mostly the same as the 116 minute version, though it includes the following differences:
HARD TARGET is a stylish, B-grade action/thriller directed by Hong Kong director John Woo (his first U.S. film).
Hard Target stars Jean Claude Van Damme as an ex-military loner named 'Chance' whose ordinary life as a merchant sailor is interrupted by 'Natasha' an attractive innocent (Yancy Butler) who's come to New Orleans to look for her father.
Unbeknownst to Natasha, her father (played by Hard Target's scriptwriter) became homeless and was enlisted by a group of ruthless entrepreneurs that organise human 'hunts' for the pleasure of privileged individuals.
Hard Target's first half has a certain amount of depth and social conscience (for an action film).
For instance, a homeless man 'Roper' (Willie C. Carpenter) is gunned down in public after no one will help him.
But Hard Target's second half (where it moves from the city to the swamps) degenerates, at times into downright silliness and has a rushed feel.
The finale in the abandoned warehouse filled with old Mardi Gras paraphernalia was meant to be somehow meaningful, but it's not; it's just a finale in an abandoned warehouse filled with old Mardi Gras paraphernalia.
Hard Target is a reworking of a much earlier film 'The Most Dangerous Game' (1932) about humans who kill humans for sport.
However, I believe Hard Target got ideas from the James Bond film 'Moonraker' (1979); check out the scene where Jaws chases Bond's contact through the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Hard Target's scriptwriter (Chuck Pfarrer) probably thought no one would notice.
Although it doesn't excuse Hard Target's failings, Woo was reportedly forced to edit Hard Target because of the violence (and it was edited again by Universal Studios).
Hard Target was later released on DVD with most of the action and violence restored.
Hard Target's still not as violent as some of Woo's earlier Hong Kong efforts e.g. 'The Killer' (1989), 'Bullet in the Head' (1990) and 'Hardboiled' (1992).
And since Woo's action films rely on shoot'em ups which would be too violent for a mainstream U.S. film, Hard Target suffers accordingly.
Although Woo's vision may have been compromised and even with most of the action and violence restored, Hard Target's still at times pretty silly e.g. Chance swinging from ropes in the finale and Chance's hillbilly 'Uncle Douvey' (Wilford Brimley) doesn't help the situation either.
And the way some of the less important baddies wear black baseball hats as if they're there just there to be shot, beaten or blown up.
Also, there's this flimsy plot device about the New Orleans police department going on strike which head baddie 'Mr Fouchon' (Lance Henriksen) and his team use as their opportunity to conduct a hunt in New Orleans.
In Robocop (1987) the police strike was plausible because in that film the police had been taken over by a private corporation.
But in Hard Target, the police strike doesn't ring true.
Hard Target makes attempts at being topical e.g. Mr Fouchon refers to the war in Bosnia as an opportunity that allowed him and his men to conduct some previous hunts; therefore it would've been better if Hard Target had been more even toned and not allowed itself to mix violence with attempted humour.
Woo's next U.S. cinema release was the disappointing 'Broken Arrow' (1996) and then the overrated 'Face Off' (1997) followed by the box office flop 'Windtalkers' (2002) and the forgettable 'Paycheck' (2003) then back to China to make the epic 'Red Cliff' (2008).
Woo also continued his U.S. career directing a made for TV action flick 'Blackjack' (1998) starring Dolph Lundgren and a two hour pilot movie for the Canadian TV series 'Once a Thief' (1996) which was a reworking and Woo's same titled 1991 Hong Kong movie as well as producing 'The Replacement Killers' (1998) and 'The Big Hit' (1998).
Although Hard Target is marred by silliness and implausibility, it's first half has a certain depth.
That, coupled with it's polished look; it's style and some of it's action scenes, could lead you to believe you're watching something more than a B-grade action film.
If Hard Target had more thought put in and stayed within the confines of the city, it could have stood out as a solid memorable and hard-hitting action film.
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