The year: 1993. A man is dragged to the Iowa City Old Sycamore Mall Movie theatre by his wife and daughter to see A Man Without A Face. Along for the ride is his nine-year-old son, who in the lobby sees another movie playing with the guy from Bloodsport they won’t be seeing. The real bosses of the household are dead set on seeing a drama about the ‘Lethal Weapon’ long-haired guy taking two-and-a-half hours to find out why he suffers for the long world. The movie begins with sweeping music, lovely water shots from helicopters, and a bunch of horses swooping through the fields (I’m not sure if this is true or not, but seems like this would be in this fluffy goo). The man looks at his sad, sad son, knowing putting him through this kind of torture is wrong on every level. So he turns to the boss lady and says “I can’t stand this crap. The boy and I are seeing Van-Damme!” The man was my father, the boy was a happy me, and the movie was Hard Target starring a mullet-clad JCVD.
Just in case you cannot remember how awesome this movie was, or just have never seen nirvana, here is just one action scene for you:
Is this a bad movie? No freaking way, but I know it never won any Oscars, and let’s be frank like a Jersey shore Footlong: it never wanted to win any of those! The 90s was a bodacious, gnarly, wild place in which most of my generation had a healthy diet of Ecto-Coolers, Ren and Stimpy, and an amazing ancient ruin known as the VHS Video Rental Store. Most of us went on a Friday or Saturday night and spent hours walking up and down the aisle (for those who were born yesterday, it was the real-life equivalent of rabbit-holing through Netflix for two hours), and mostly what we found were classics such as this one (next to a knock-off version with titles like Hard Moving Target starry Frank Stallone).
The plot of the film involves homeless people being slaughtered by rich people who pay Lance Henrikson (in one of his best villain roles ever, as well as the best gun for a villain I have seen so far) for this pleasure. Unfortunately, they killed a friend of a homeless veteran, played perfectly by JCVD, and restitution must be made. The rest of the plot you can pretty much figure out, but the movie does have a strong cast, including The King of Quaker Oats, Wilford Brimley, whose astonishing cajun accent is on par with Fred Gwynn’s accent from Pet Semetary. The story of the movie is unique as it dates back to a classic literature short story called The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Cornell in 1924. The plot of the story is about a rich well to do man who hunts for fun and wants to bag the most dangerous animal of all… Man! Since Walt Disney (basically) made everything before 1927 public domain, this movie has been used for countless adaptations like The Most Dangerous Game (1932), the blaxploitation classic The Beast Must Die (1974), the just plain awful Surviving The Game (1994) starring Gary Busey (probably the most dangerous man alive!), all the way to recently with the release of Blumhouse’s The Hunt (2020) which reverses the plot where the poor hunt down the rich. However, given a choice between all of these and JCVD ripping the tail off a rattlesnake, I’ll mount this movie on my trophy wall any day.
Directed by John Woo, an incredible director who would go on to give us dove-filled classics like Broken Arrow and Face-Off, this action-filled 97 minutes of pure adrenaline mojo was such a huge success, grossing more than 90 Million on a 19 million budget, studio bosses gave Woo the keys to the kingdom and is still going strong today. Hard Target is highly scored as one of the better JCVD actioners and it makes sense. The movie has fire, snakes, JCVD surfing an arrow, and one of the best last spoken words before a villain dies ever!!!!! You can find this little gem on most streaming services, from Prime to YouTube, and is certainly on DVD and Blu-Ray, but for the honor and love of classic 90s action cinema, stay away from Hard Target 2! Now, deep fry some lizard gizzards, slice someone’s stomach with a knife, and let’s get to the VAN-DAMME-AGE!!!!!!!!