Hard Target (1993)

hard target IMDb

I’m officially over Van Damme. His early movies were fun, even if their plots weren’t terribly complex. There was a lot of great action, and I can see why he was a bit of heartthrob in his heyday. Hard Target is just boring, and Van Damme has a terrible mullet that completely cancels out any other attractive qualities he still had. There is nothing fun here.

Hard Target could have been much better than it actually is. It’s loosely based on the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” which implies that the movie should be exciting. Unfortunately it is not. The plot is so dull that I’m struggling to remember exactly what happens. I do remember a lot of very stiff acting, but curiously few action scenes. This is because the action is not up to Van Damme’s usual standards. The only good thing about this movie is Lance Henriksen, who plays the villain, but even his character is reduced to a weird caricature.

There isn’t much else to say about this movie. Clearly Van Damme was on his way out, soon to be replaced by younger men who were more talented in the acting department. I recommend skipping this and watching the Muscles from Brussels in virtually any other movie he ever made.

Rating: F

This is a pretty generic Van Damme film. It is one of his better ones, but not on the same level as something like Bloodsport or Universal Soldier. I liked the original story, but it did seem like Van Damme’s character could have been played by just about anyone. He did not take full advantage of his fighting skills in this movie, which is a shame.

Van Damme plays Chance Boudreaux. A homeless man living in the streets of New Orleans. When a young woman (Yancy Butler) comes looking for her father, he decides to help her find him. Turns out her father got caught up in a underground hunting business run by a man called Emil (Lance Henrikson). He gets paid by bored rich aristocrats to set up a hunt, using humans as the target. Emil usually uses ex-armed forces with no family connections for his hunts, but someone screwed up and used a guy who still had a daughter. Now that she’s sniffing around, Emil needs to get rid of her and her mulleted Cajun bodyguard.

I enjoyed this film, it is entertaining. I really like the premise of using homeless men and hunting them down, it was very original. My biggest complaint about this film was the villain. Lance Henrikson is good, but he is by no means a physical match for Van Damme. I felt like he would have broken the older Henrikson in two without much effort, which is pretty much what happens when they do eventually go toe to toe during the climax. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t like the fact that Van Damme doesn’t use his fighting skills much. This is one of the few films I can recall where he uses guns the majority of the time. I don’t really associate Van Damme with guns, I always think of him as kicking ass with his fists. There is just not enough of that here.

Hard Target is directed by John Woo, and his signature explosive set pieces are all on show here. It is one of the film’s highlights for me. Especially the climax, set in what looks like a warehouse for mardi gras floats.

This is an entertaining film. Van Damme has been better, but this is still fun.

Rating: C+

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