Hard Target movie full length review - Maximum VAN-DAM-MAGE + Maximum MULLET! = The Masterpiece: Hard Target!
In 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme was at the peak of his powers and popularity and in August of that year saw the release of his best and most exciting movie: Hard Target.
This time Van Damme was directed by veteran Chinese action-film director John Woo - and what a utterly thrilling combination of talents and ability it turned out to be!
In his American film debut Woo and Van Damme made a masterpiece of action, ablaze in a fury of gun battles, neck-breaking flying kicks and just overall killer stunt-work. To me, Woo's most important contribution to the picture, is his utterly captivating camera-work and razor-sharp (often complex) film editing. These two qualities place Hard Target far above most other movies of the genre, I'm especially fond of Woo's liberal use of tracking shots (that great moving camera work!) one of his several trademarks. What Woo's cinematography and editing produce is a very vivid and physically visceral film experience. The action scene's are extremely impactful and grandiose, having more snap to them then most films of the genre and the gunplay in this movie is amazingly intense and exciting and, to great effect, they often go overboard in the "squibs and blood-packs department". It's a terrible shame those two talents Van Damme/Woo never worked with each other again - it should have been the starting of a dynasty. Factually speaking, a majority of the fans who are familiar with Jon Woo's American films also agree, that Hard Target (his first) is the best of the lot. I certainly second that notion.
The casting, for the most part, is terrific, especially the main baddies: Lance Henriksen as Mr. Fouchon and Arnold Vosloo as Pik, I think Vosloo turns out to be one of the best and most convincing hit-men ever portrayed in film and he's involved in almost all of the gun fights. Yancey Butler in her film debut is only so-so, though it doesn't matter much, because she's completely interchangeable with three of four dozen other actresses of the era - any one of which would have done as good a job or better.
The movie takes place in and around New Orleans, several great action sequences make use of the sites of said city, they go all over it as a matter of fact and later on the chase continues into the surrounding bayou and that's when the movie really kicks into full-speed. While meeting Uncle Douvee (thats Wilford Brimley as some kind of crusty old moon-shinin' cajun hermit) along the way, who's a relative of Chance Boudreaux (Van Dammes character), who colorfully enhances the movie. Even some horseback riding action finds it's way into the mix, leading up to an absolutely enthrallingly explosive finale (very stylishly staged Mr. Woo) in an abandoned warehouse. A quick heads-up: Expect to see Lance Henriksen explode across scene in what has to be one of cinema's funniest death scenes. Hard Target is undoubtedly, in grand thundering fashion, the high-point of Van Damme's career - in other words it's his best movie! None of that direct-to-video garbage he's been churning out since the late-90's counts.
As many other reviewers have stated before, I just HAVE TO make mention of Van Damme's unbelievably super-awesome MULLET! Wow, now that THING is just beyond awesome, rightfully titled by another reviewer to be "a pantheon-level mullet". In any case it's certainly one of the best (if not the best) movie mullets of all time - Period.
Various prints of this spectacularly exciting action film exist, however, UN-like most of the time, it's the Euro-print that is the less edited and more violent print, which..... you might have guessed, is the better print. Up until about 2014 I was only familiar with the somewhat choppy, subdued and >>> !!! NEEDLESSLY EDITED !!! <<< US-version. I'm super-glad to say I own a region-free blu-ray copy of this film, that features the Euro-version, which is definitely the superior presentation. It's the vision that Woo and Van Damme had in mind for the audience all along. As you may already know it was the US ratings-board who were dead-set on bringing John Woo (and his reputation of making hyper-violent movies) to a heel. Which in fact qualifies them as: Meddlesome Morons. I spit on you POS. In the end, 23 years later, time has proved to be very kind to this film and it's definitely still every bit as exciting now as it was then. Hot damn action films were awesome in the early 90's!
Oh yah one last point, the SOUND of this movie is fantastic and is just as hard-hitting as the visuals - so crank it to 10!