New Orleans. All kind of people call it home, black or white, rich or poor. That’s where a bunch of evil businessmen are putting together big-scale hunts in which the targets are more-or-less willing bums. They’re picked up on the street, interviewed to see if anyone would notice their death and then offered a big load of cash to be preys. The bum has to get to the river with the bag of money without being killed to keep it. The hunts usually go well for the guys with the guns, until the day when a nosy girl (Yancy Butler) arrives in town, determined to find out what happened to her homeless father.
Things get even worse for the bad guys when she hires a streetwise hobo to help her. And not just any hobo; Chance Boudreaux might live in a dumpster, but he sports long, full, moussed hair, he’s great at martial arts and gun-handling and he’s got a badass attitude. Well, it ain’t that surprising since he’s played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, as proud and arrogant as ever! He spends the whole film kicking ass and admiring his own greatness. He’s hilarious!
His opponents are also very enjoyable. You’ve got to see Lance Henriksen as the stone-faced, cold-blooded, piano-playing boss. There’s also Arnold Vosloo, in his coolest role ever. You might remember him as the “Darkman” of the sequels (Liam Neeson left the series to do “Schindler’s List”. Dumb career move, ey!). Oh, and by the way, “Hard Target” is produced by Sam Raimi, “Darkman”‘s creator. Anyway, Voosloo plays an extremely cruel goon who loves to torture and kill people. You have to see his first scene. Many believe that the best entrance in film is Orson Welles’ in “The Third Man”. I’d go for Voosloo in this flick. Van Damme is interrogating a fat slob – enter Voosloo. His first shot shows him in scary lighting, with lots of shadow on his face, and Vosloo is narrowing his eyes and smiling in a cruel way. He looks like the freaking Devil!
Okay, this ain’t much of a story, but the setting is interesting and it leads to many awesome action sequences. And, in case you didn’t know, this film is directed by the best action filmmaker in the world, John Woo. He crafts every scene to be as exciting as it gets, his visual style is always stunning and no one orchestrates a shoot-out like him. Of course, Woo has to adapt to the Muscles from Brussels, but Van Damme’s kicks and flips never looked so cool. Woo’s camera is dynamic and he uses lots of visuals tricks to make the fights more fun to watch, including tons of slow motion!
And man, I love New Orleans! Swamps, cabins and woods are great places to set action scenes, and the Cajun score is real cool. Of course, this film ain’t as cool as Woo’ Hong Kong classics, but “Hard Target” still packs a lot of great action. The final shoot-out, packed with gunfire, cool stunts and Mexican stand-offs, is one great showdown!