There’s no better way to relax than a cup of tea, a soft blanket, and a copy of the cinematic classic, Hard Target. We’ve all had a long, hard week and we need some Jean-Claude Van Damme in our lives. Action movies are like fine wines and the good ones get better with age. Hard Target is action nirvana; a sweet escape into a parallel world where problems are solved with crossbows, jump kicks, and explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.
Released in 1993, Hard Target got a lot of press for being international-action guru John Woo’s first American film. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would also turn out to be his best. Sure, there’s a madcap energy to flicks like Face/Off, but nothing Woo did before or after would match the raw intensity of Hard Target. It’s got all his trademarks, the two-hand gun ballets, the excessive use of slow motion, and doves. It wouldn’t be a John Woo movie without doves.
Hard Target also happens to be the best Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. That right, I said it, it’s his best. Van Damme plays Chance Boudreaux, a homeless, out of work, merchant seaman who also happens to be the most kickass martial artist the city of New Orleans has ever seen. This is Van Damme in top form, the absolute peak of his action movie career. He flips over cars, jump kicks dudes off of motorcycles, and punches out a rattlesnake.
The supporting cast deserves credit, too. Lance Henriksen is perfect as the film’s villain. He’s in a constant state of irritation, annoyed as opposed to vengeful. Henriksen acts circles around everybody else in this movie. Whether you are a Van Damme fan or not, Hard Target is worth watching just for Lance Henriksen. Seriously, he’s that good. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Wilford Brimley, who is essential to this movie. As Uncle Douvee, Brimley adopts an accent that can only be described as crazy town banana pants. He chews the scenery so hard, milking every moment. He lays it on so thick, you could pour it on Cheerios and call it honey.
Or course, what makes Hard Target so damn good is its action. The gunfights are insane, as if every bullet is loaded with explosives, creating whirlwinds of sparks, fire, and debris. Every car chase ends in a harrowing crash, violent explosion, and slow motion turn from Van Damme. In fact, Hard Target was so violent and action-packed that it had to be cut down in order to receive a R rating. In a day and age when films are cutting down to a PG-13, it’s nice to remember that action movies once fought for that hard R.
So, if you are looking to inject some high-octane energy into an otherwise laid-back weekend, you could do worse than Hard Target. The 80s and 90s were the golden era of action movies and Hard Target is a shinning example of that glorious time. It’ll get your blood boiling and your heart pounding.
Sound off in the comments and let us know your favorite moments, jump kicks, and death scenes from this masterpiece. You can also tweet me at @BenHBailey if you wanna talk more about the adventures of Chance Boudreaux.