Hard Target is a 1993 John Woo film starring Jean Claude Van Damme, Prince Imhotep, That guy from Aliens/X-files and poor man’s Brooke Shields.
The premise of the movie is that the two obvious bad guys pictured above run a very exclusive type of hunting business; charging half a million dollars for bored businessmen to hunt ex-military hobos. Lance Henriksen (X-files) is head of the business and Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep) is in charge of all the killing. The film takes place in New Orleans which is good because there is some attempt to provide a back story for Van Damme’s soupey-thick Belgian accent, but it’s also bad because the oppressive, humid heat makes Jean-Claude’s already shiny mullet a greasy pile of ramen noodles.
“A college kid just tried to eat my hair!”
Hard Target opens with a hobo running for his life, interspersed with close-ups of a spinning arrow. I feel the need to describe these spinning arrow close-ups; have you ever seen speed racer? The static car with the background speeding by?
like this, only with an arrow
And there were a TON of these spinning arrow close ups, I think the hobo was killed by 6 arrows and you see 37 spinning arrow shots. Fake Brooke Shields shows up as a plot device to move the movie forward, starring as our poor pincushion hobo’s long lost daughter. She waltzes into town the DAY AFTER dear old Dad bites the dust. After some standard poking around a run down boarding house, she leaves and tries to get into her car. A bunch of rough-and-tumbles show up and start the obligatory crude speech and hair stroking (this is to tell us, the audience, that this woman is sexy and desirable and worth the salary she was paid to star in the movie ). The bums up the ante by snatching her purse and slapping mdm. eyebrows across the face, knocking her into her car. This was a slap to end all slaps; the thug slapped her from 4 feet away and she still felt it somehow! It must have been the slow motion. I have to pause here before we get to the obvious entrance of Van Damme and just say that this film had the most gratuitous use of slow motion I have ever seen. There is a scene in this movie where Van Damme strikes a match to light a cigar and that’s in slow motion.
Anyways, where were we, oh right, damsel in distress, thugs, enter Chance. Yes, Van Damme’s character is named Chance.
“Why are you wearing a trench coat? It’s 102 degrees!”
“Why are you wearing those eyebrows? You’re not Brooke Shields.”
The thugs pull a knife, so Chance draws back his trenchcoat like he’s going to whip his manhood out successfully distracting everyone long enough for Van Damme to boot them all in the head.
Our female lead then goes to file a report at the world’s most understaffed police station. Apparently John Woo had no extras budget, so the only “cop” you ever see in the film is a black woman that I thought was a secretary. We’re introduced to this lady detective as she lights her own birthday candle on a bundt cake (at her desk) and says “happy birthday to me, I guess”, just as Princess Eyebrows walks in. Then the black lady desk clerk/police officer puts the cake with the candle still lit into her drawer and shuts it. The spinning arrow closeups had been one indicator that this film would be great, but putting a lit birthday cake in a desk drawer? John Woo, you blow my mind. We are treated to a scene showing the cop opening the drawer back up in a cloud of smoke to retrieve the cake, candle still flaming
Cut to the docks where John Woo blew his extras money on 300 homeless slobs standing around waiting for work. The camera fixes on 2 forklifts loaded with barrels as they draw back revealing Chance in slow motion. This slow motion shot is also pointless, we’ve already seen Chance standing there overheating in his trenchcoat, this isn’t his grand entrance. Someone needs to explain to Woo that slow motion is for roundhouse kicks, chicks undressing and people eating really big burgers, not dudes looking for work.
Of course whats-her-eyebrows tracks him down and hires him to help her find her Pa. Chance gives her a guided tour of hobo-town and a fellow hobo gives them both a tour of dead hobo’s shopping cart, where the daughter is shocked to find a wad of nudey posters. Chance and fellow hobo explain that New Orlean’s homeless men deliver the posters for money (It’s New Orleans, boobs everywhere!)
Apparently in 1993, hobos are respectful of each other’s shopping carts
Of course the rotund, sweaty, greasy man hiring people to deliver the posters is only a front, he’s REALLY looking for ex-military men for the hunting business (I guess every veteren from Nam washed up in New Orleans?). The movie progresses as expected, the murdered hobo corpse shows up as kindling in an abandoned building fire, Chance figures out what’s going on, the female cop is about as good as being a cop as she is at having birthdays…
“I suck at investigating, being discreet, driving AND shooting”
Cop dies, time to grab a motorcycle and make sure Chance makes the finale on time.
Chance drops boobs off at his Uncle’s, New Orleans Santa Claus …
And he’s off to the final showdown…in a parade float warehouse full of pigeons that can only fly in slow motion. Not only is the finale packed full of birds, but there is some point made to show that Chance can TALK to the birds…because John Woo has a massive hard-on for birds. I bet if John Woo had seen those photos of the octopus here eating that seagull he would have come over here and punched that octopus, in slow motion. Speaking of punching completely retarded things, I skipped over the part where Van Damme punches a snake in the head and then rips off the rattler, with his teeth. Was that in slow motion? NO, which was probably for the best or this movie would have taken ALL the Oscars.
When we reach the warehouse, head bad boss has charged $750,000 each to a group of men wanting to hunt the white meat and set them on the trail of Chance. Chance lies in wait with his secret weapon…
…well, not very secret, since he is tweeting like a bird when the bad guys enter, allowing them to easily find him. Van Damme enters the scene by lowering himself down on a giant, you guessed it, bird float. Chance dispatches the thugs and hunters with bullets and boots to the face (which is more lethal? We may never know) Boobs and Santa Claus show up to make themselves easy targets (And Santa has a quiver of arrows too, what is with Woo and arrows? Is it because they have feathers and fly…LIKE BIRDS?) Santa is stabbed, boobs is emotional and that leaves us with the ultimate showdown.
Van Damme puts a grenade down the crotch of this guy’s pants. He doesn’t throw the grenade at the guy’s crotch, he grabs the dude’s pants, pulls them open and drops the grenade in. I couldn’t find a GIF of that moment. (Boobs also kills a guy by emptying a clip into his balls)
And Santa? Not dead after all, his flask stopped the arrow, alcoholism saves the day!
I didn’t cover everything, some things, like the Bad Guy playing an entire piano concerto while watching himself in a mirror, or the horse riding escape Van Damme himself insisted on being included, I glossed over, since I know you will want to watch the film yourself…which you can do here in 10 minutes thanks to some guy on youtube!
This was John Woo’s first American film, so how did he do? It’s hard for me to say, Kurt Russell was supposed to play the lead and that makes me very biased. Kurt Russell is much better at the america speak than Van Damme, but Kurt can’t kick people like Van Damme…although I would have coughed up the ticket price to see Kurt punch a snake in the head and bite off it’s tail.
“This is first film in America, how am I doing?”
“Well, you’re doing ok, but have you considered more slow motion?”
3 poutines out of 5