Friday, August 28, 2009

Essential Action #2: Hard Target

Where to begin with Hard Target.

Well, the first thing you should know is that it is directed by John Woo. He's the king of stylized action movies and is responsible for gems like The Killer, Face/Off, and Mission:Impossible. This means that not only will the action be over-the-top but it will be plentiful. You're bound to see lots of spin-kicks in trench coats and slow-mo emptying of Beretta clips.

Secondly, Hard Target is filmed in such a way that the setting, New Orleans, is as much a character as our hero Jean-Claude. The soundtrack is 100% bluesy and for the first time JCVD's french accent suits his character. The town is made out to be a ghost town full of criminals and homeless people, and what better setting for a good old fashioned game of manhunt.

The character of Chance Boudreau, played by JCVD, is the perfect cheesy action movie hero. Not only does he have a greasy jheri curl mullet and all of his clothes are made of denim, but his name is Chance. Chance! One of the funniest moments in the history of movie dialogue occurs in this movie when Chance is asked about his obscure name:

His mama took one! A chance! I love this movie.

Hard Target's greatest strength as a movie is how the plot follows the same storyline as a video game. There's a main boss, his right-hand man, and an infinite amount of gun toting henchmen. On top of that, all of the bad guys have unique weapons like crossbows, sniper rifles, and singe-shot pistols, all justified by the fact that they're 'in it for the hunt'.

So not only do we have the brilliant Jean-Claude Van Damme as the mysterious and deadly Chance Boudreau, but the main villian is everyone's favourite Lance Henriksen of Aliens and Millenium fame. His right hand man is named Pik van Cleef played by Arnold Vosloo whom you know as the mummy from The Mummy movies. And last but not least, Wilfred Brimley is in this movie. Wilfred Brimley is in this movie. I had to say that twice. He plays a horse-back riding, bow and arrow carrying, gumbo cooking Frenchman who's old age and limited mobility doesn't stop him from thwarting countless professional killers.

The action scenes are too many to disect but you should know that there is a scene in which Chance grabs a snake by the 'throat' and punches it in the face, knocking it out. While you think that's probably the most ridiculous thing you'll see, wait until you see the death of the main villain. Hard Target follows Die Hardian Ethos well and as a result a monster showdown between Chance and Lance results in one of my favourite villian deaths ever.

Overall, Hard Target is an easy watch because it doesn't waste time with character development, avoiding stereotypes, and transitioning well between scenes. It's Jean-Claude Van Damme and Wilfred Brimley killing hundreds of men with sunglasses and leather jackets. Sometimes even in slow motion.

Get drunk and take a 'chance' on Hard Target, folks!

Here's the trailer:

Here's JCVD improvising when he doesn't have enough time to hold a gun properly:

And finally, here's why not to fuck with Lance and Pik. Also, a good example of their non-verbal communication skills:

"I know that look. That's the look he makes when he wants me to hold a snake up in the air for him shoot in the head with his single-shot pistol."

This isn't from Hard Target but it's another example of Lance placing people in mortal danger just for the chance to shoot things out of their hands:

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