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Hard Target

A movie directed by John Woo

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Van Damme is a Hard Target

  • Feb 5, 2002
Pros: Fast paced action, stunts, Van Damme

Cons: casting of Wilford Brimley!

The Bottom Line: An action adventure where men are hunted down in New Orleans out of boredom

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

USA Network offered up Hard Target this evening and as soon as I caught Jean-Claude Van Damme, I sat down on the couch to watch him in action. Yancy Butler plays Natasha, who arrives in town looking for her father after he stopped writing her. The local police are on strike, which makes this town a playing field for wealthy men that want to prove they can take down other men as prey.

When Natasha leaves a diner she is attacked by a bunch of men but gets rescued by Chance who is none other than Van Damme. This is the first of many action packed scenes with Chance kicking and knocking out his opponents. Once they leave in her car they introduce themselves. At first Natasha states her name is Nat and Chance asks why her parents would name her after a bug. That was funny coming from a guy with the name Chance.

Natasha also showed up at the police station trying to fill out a missing persons report for her father. The female detective suggested she find a guide to search the city or she would end up missing and directs Natasha to the homeless shelters. It does not take long for Natasha and Chance to have another “chance” meeting. A fat man named Randal Poe hires homeless men to hand out some sort of brochures. Those same brochures were found in the shopping cart of Natasha’s fathers’ belongings. Her father turns up a burn victim in a vacated building but Chance goes poking about to dig up more details. He stumbles on the “dog tags” that vets wear and brought this to the detective.

She orders another autopsy and then the real mystery is revealed about this hunting game. Chance was intending on going out to sea but he did not pay up his dues so Natasha had paid him to help find the truth about her father. Randal Poe gets in trouble with the big guys who are running the hunt and they cut off his ear. The Doctor who works within the police system is gunned down at his front door and they decide they are bored with New Orleans and time to head for Europe.

They plan one last hunt of a black man that Natasha and Chance both had met at the homeless shelter. This man is lured by the hundred dollars but then finds out he has five minutes to run for his life with a money belt containing ten grand. There are motorcycles all around chasing him and the helicopter searching him out. Lance Henricksen plays Fouchon who is the brains behind this game of “chance”. Arnold Vosloo plays Van Cleaf the partner in this game. These two guys wore black coats and were typecast well in their roles.

While all this was going on you did not sense this was a great area of New Orleans and for one scene there were tourists outside on the streets but no one would assist the black man who was running for his life. He is found the next morning by Chance, Natasha and the female detective, who then go in search of Poe. They find him after he has been gunned down at his car but did not realize the guy was still there and the female detective gets shot and killed.

Chance hops on motorcycles, flips over burning cars, rides on a horse and kicks them all when they get in his way. Along the way we have some humorous scenes with an Uncle that is played by Wilford Brimley. The accent is very comical and Natasha seems out of place in many of the scenes in her clothes and character. Van Damme hardly breaks out in a sweat after spending hours being chased down. The stunts are cool and some are funny when you can obviously tell there was no one riding the motorcycle or when they landed on the train.

The whole premise of the movie was a bit odd but I was really watching Hard Target just to see the hunk in action with his long stringy hair and tan face. The last fifteen minutes is the only time we get to see him take his shirt off but well worth the wait. They all end up in a warehouse with pidgeons and old Mardi Gras costumes. Leading up to the climax was a freak encounter with a snake that was funny and scary at the same time. You have to see what he does with the snake. In the warehouse Van Damme gets to play “Tarzan” swinging from ropes and jerking heads around with one kick.

Considering the other option on Television was a Robin Williams flick, I took a Chance that action would prevail. Hard Target is from 1993 and the first US movie directed by John Woo. During the first commercial I read around at some other sites to see if this was worth sitting through and learned that at least twenty minutes was cut from this and it might be worth searching for that DVD.


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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About the reviewer
Bonnie Sayers ()
Ranked #386
single parenting two teens on autism spectrum. Working out daily, Zumba & Bodybugg enthusiast.
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About this movie


In his Hollywood debut, Hong Kong directing sensation John Woo styles this action movie about a simple Merchant Marine who seeks to protect a beautiful woman and avenge the death of her father. The killers are the arrangers of "human safaris" that provide sport for the very rich.
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Director: John Woo
Release Date: 1993
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Universal Studios Home Video (June 30, 1998)
Runtime: 1hr 37min
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