1993, a much simpler time in America. Bill Clinton is President, Nirvana releases In Utero, Michael Jordan retires from the NBA, and yours truly was still a year away from being born. But the most important event of the year came on August 20th, 1993. Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in John Woo’s Hard Target. Hard Target is a 1993 action film starring Van Damme, Lance Henriksen, and Yancy Butler. Let’s take a look back at what could be considered (maybe only to myself) the pinnacle of modern cinema.
Hard Target – Synopsis
Set in the bayou of New Orleans, Natasha Binder (Butler) searches for her estranged, homeless father. On her search she is confronted by local thugs who notice the large amount of cash at her disposal. Before the gang can get off with her money, drifter Chase Boudreaux (Van Damme) takes out the thugs. With a superior set of martial arts skills and Marine training, Chase takes the men out with ease.
Emil Fouchon (Henriksen), the leader of the band of baddies, hosts a routine hunt in The Big Easy. Though this is no ordinary hunt. Much like “The Most Dangerous Game”, Fouchon and his goons hunt down hired homeless men for sport. Natasha enlists the help of Chase to find her homeless father. The two soon realize that her father is no longer missing but that he has become the latest catch in Fouchon’s game.
After digging too deep into the case, Nat and Chase become the next prey for Fouchon and his cronies. The gang take chase to the duo which leads to a massive fight in the streets of New Orleans. Boudreaux takes out a half dozen of Fouchon’s men with a couple roundhouse kicks and explosions. Fouchon and his gang soon come to the realization they are no longer the hunters, but the hunted.
Hard Target – What I Liked
Hard Target is everything one could want in an action film. The film is a non-stop joyride from start to finish. Beginning the film with one of Fouchon’s hunts throws the viewer right into the middle of the action. It clearly sets up who is the big bad, as well as introducing the muscle of the group, Pik (Arnold Vosloo). Henriksen plays the role of Fouchon with such ease and feels delighted in his villainous ways.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is the epitome of bad-ass action hero in Hard Target. While most action stars rely solely shoot-em up action scenes, Van Damme brings his real life martial arts skills to the table. The use of roundhouse and spin kicks to take out baddies adds impact to each fight scene. You cannot help but feel an adrenaline rush every time Van Damme lays a boot to another man’s face.
Famed Chinese action director John Woo helm’s Hard Target, and it may just be his finest work. As an uber fan of Face/Off, Woo’s signature style of slow motion shots, doves, and back-to-back shootouts is just as present in Hard Target. Unlike in Face/Off (which deserves a Flashback Films review in it’s own right), Van Damme brings a physicality that neither John Travolta nor Nicholas Cage could.
Hard Target – What Could Have Been Improved
Hard Target – More of What I Liked
Each action scene is a non-stop, balls-to-the-wall thrill. Sure, is the action over the top? Hell yes it is. But within the confines of the story and the way the actors are playing it off, the action fits seamlessly. What other film can you find Jean-Claude Van Damme crashing a motorcycle into a truck, while simultaneously flipping over said truck, to land safely on the ground and shoot the motorcycle causing a massive explosion? Only in Hard Target.
Hard Target – Final Thoughts
Maybe I have been gushing a little too hard on this film, but I can undisputedly say that to me Hard Target is a perfect film. It knows exactly what it is. A non-stop action thrill ride starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and directed by John Woo. Although these types of film’s are not everyone’s cup of tea (I am probably in the minority on that). Hard Target provides everything an action fan could dream of, including Wilford Brimley shooting arrows whilst riding a horse. That’s Hard Target.