If there ever was mullet more epic than the one Van Damme sports in "Hard Target", the world just might implode on itself. And just like his wicked slicked back and greasy mullet, the film "Hard Target" is a slick and ridiculous feast of New Orleans gun slinging and over the top action. Perhaps no Woo's best film (nor the most logical), but "Hard Target" has something distinctly charming in its presentation and epic bullet ballets. Something only a combination that this film can truly embody.
Ms. Binder (Butler) found her way to New Orleans to find her father. With no help from the police department, they happen to be on strike, she goes out on a limb and hires a bayou boy named Chance (Van Damme) to help her track him down. Turns out what they find is that there is a group of hunters that have been killing men for sport. Led by Mr. Fouchon (Henriksen) , these guys take ex-combat veterans and make them a deal for some major cash if they can survive. Now Chance and Ms. Binder are on their target list. Luckily, with his ex-military training, back wood bayou tactics, ability to defy physics occasionally, and a mullet to kill for, Chance is going to make these professional hunters...the hunted.
Once again, poor John Woo ends up with a pretty shitty script for his first American film. It's not a horrible script; the writing is hit or miss with its dialogue and it's pretty cliche. How many films have we seen now about 'man: the prefect game;. This one just happens to have a very brash young Van Damme, a neat setting (New Orleans), and the visual wow of Woo. Even these can't make up for all of it though, the snake scene comes to mind with a great concept that didn't work except for unintentional laughs, and the plot holes can be vicious in bringing down the fun of the film.
The action of the film handedly makes up for its flaws though. With Van Damme's action prowess (and ability to leap!) and John Woo's penchant for making brutal violence artistic, "Hard Target" has some of the coolest action sequences out there. Some of them tend to be a bit over the top, the standing motorcycle leap for example, but the general awesomeness of their execution is something to admire. The final shootout is an all guns blazing high adrenaline classic in a great setting. A sequence not to be missed by action fans.
Despite its rather poorly built character arcs and cliche story, "Hard Target" overcomes these with its spunky and action packed charm. One of Van Damme's best films out there and one of Woo's coolest and most slick. Not quite as slick as Chance's mullet but damn close.
BONUS PRAISE: This movie also benefits from having a rather intriguing and vicious duo for villains. Henriksen is just fucking evil in this movie (The way he's yelling at his minions when his jacket is on fire is just so damn cool) and his partner has a great evil look and sound. These two might be some of my favorite action film villains for this and it helps out the plot of this film tremendously.
Written By Matt Reifschneider