Hard Target is Jean Claude Van Damme’s best movie, mostly because it was directed by action movie god John (The Killer) Woo. Woo’s flamboyant style, gratuitous shots of white doves and trademark slow motion was somewhat muted by the stupid American studio, but it’s still prevalent enough to have that unmistakable Woo look and feel. After the success of Hard Target, Van Damme would later employ other Asian action directors such as Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark to helm several of his features. Unfortunately, they couldn’t compare to the master, John Woo.
What we got plot wise is yet another variation on the old Most Dangerous Game scenario. Greasy Lance Henriksen offers down and out vets an opportunity to make some money. He’ll hunt them down like an animal and if they survive, they get a bunch of cash. If they don’t survive, they’re... well... uh, dead. Yancy Butler’s dad gets killed during one of these Most Dangerous Games and Chance the Cajun (Van Damme) helps her find out what happened to him. Eventually Chance gets drawn into one of the games himself and has to kung fu the bejesus out of anyone armed with a crossbow and/or automatic weapon.
JCVD is quite good in this flick and sports the most perfectly moussed mullet in cinema history. He kicks a lot of ass during his many slow motion kung fu scenes, shootouts, and action sequences. In addition to his usual brand of kung fu, he also gets to break people’s forearms Steven Seagal style.
The action is way over the top and isn’t realistic in the least and I’m perfectly OK with that. The carnage includes a great moment where Van Damme punches a rattlesnake, an awesome shootout where JCVD straddles a giant paper Mache pelican and blows away several people, and of course, the immortal scene where Van Damme stands on top of a motorcycle like he’s riding a surfboard and jumps over a car. The stuff that doesn’t involve slow motion action sequences is thoroughly ho-hum though. The pacing also seems to be caught in slow motion too, but whenever Van Damme is putting someone in a hurt locker, its damn good times.
You can also feast on the excellent scumbag performance by Lance Henriksen. There’s a wonderfully demented scene late in the flick where he’s got
The flick also contains the greatest dialogue exchange found in any JCVD movie ever. When
Producer Sam Raimi also teamed up with Van Damme for the next year’s Timecop.