Set New Orleans, a young woman named Natasha (Yancy Bulter) is looking for her father who has disappeared. While making enquires she finds herself in danger, even more so when thugs try to rob her of her money. Coming to her rescue is a mysterious long-haired man who calls himself “Chance” (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Chance knows the city of New Orleans well and is more than capable of defeating any bad guys who dare cross his path. In desperation, Natasha hires Chance to investigate with her and find the men responsible for her father’s disappearance. Their investigation leads them to discover a group of bad guys who pay homeless people thousands of dollars for a ‘job’. To put it simply, these bad guys hunt them down and murder them in cold blood like it’s a hunting sport.
For those who aren’t aware, Hard Target was directed by John Woo who was very big on action films in the 90s and early 2000s. His work includes actions hits such as Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible II & Face/Off which were all very enjoyable and big films. If you’ve ever seen a John Woo film, most people will know what to expect here- crazy over the top action sequences that are fun to watch. Slow motion sequences and doves flying- yes, Doves- are all things the director uses within all action films he directs…including this one.
As a plot, it’s simple, basic and brainless, but the plot isn’t really the highlight of the film… the action is. As stated before, the action sequences are over the top and brainless popcorn entertainment. Seeing actor Jean-Claude Van Damme stand up on a motorbike only to kill bad guys is a prime example of how brainless and fun this film is. Seeing the leading hero have long hair is also something to grin at. Heck, he even kills a snake with his fists (what more do you want in regards to a fun film people!). While the action is a blast, it is unfortunate that due the amazing Blu-ray transfer it is obvious during main action sequences that the action super star has used stunt doubles at multiple times in the film.
Let’s talk about the slow motion shots. These occur during both action sequences and sometimes during the most basic shots where we wouldn’t expect this type of filming to occur, such as when someone gets out of a car. While it may have been overused, again, it’s a style which for its time was fun and appreciated by movie lovers in the 90s. During my recent re-watch, I found myself simply having a good time with this film and even laughing during cringe dialogue or crazy action scenes.
Another element that’s fun is the film’s soundtrack, particularly whenever Van Damme is on screen. The music is something we would normally hear in a type of western film and once again it’s bit quirky to hear in an action film.
Overall, if you love a brainless action flick from the 90s, look no further. With a simple plot and consistently over the top slow-motion action sequences, Hard Target is bound to be enjoyed by many even if there are elements in the film that can be faulted. The Blu-ray re-release of this film has a fantastic transfer for both visual and audio, but visually it does show fans that Jean-Claude Van Damme didn’t do all his stunt work here which is surprising. But eh, Hard Target is still a blast for all the wrong reasons.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden