I think I’m being pretty reasonable when I say that any movie featuring both Jean Claude Van Damme sporting a glorious shoulder-length mullet and Wilford Brimley riding a horse while shooting people with a bow is probably worth a look. I was drawn to the 1993 action masterpiece Hard Target when I found myself one morning poring over Van Damme’s entire filmography, a move that was spurred by an interest in some of his other classics, titles like DEATH WARRANT, MAXIMUM RISK, DOUBLE IMPACT, and SUDDEN DEATH. In the business of kicking ass, Van Damme, aka The Muscles From Brussels (a nickname I have been fond/envious of for many years), is a living legend and a master of his craft. Furthermore, I can identify with him personally for his considerable talent on the dance floor, a place that I too often call home.
Hard Target takes place in the rough streets of New Orleans, where a group of villains are running a lucrative operation offering wealthy repressed businessmen the opportunity to hunt and kill homeless people. An intriguing premise, especially when you take into account the fact that the villains look like this:
These are truly nefarious men. However, when the daughter of one of their quarries comes around asking questions regarding the whereabouts of her father, things start to heat up. The only man who can help her get to the bottom of the situation is a lone drifter, a ragin’ Cajun who goes by the name of Chance Boudreaux. This is Van Damme in all of his mid-nineties glory, a steely eyed freedom fighter who eats nails and shits gunpowder. Welcome to the Bayou, ladies, the line starts here.
In case you can’t already tell, Chance is not fucking around. He becomes personally involved with Natasha, the dead man’s daughter, and the atmosphere throughout the remainder of the film is dominated by a sexual tension so thick and palpable you could slice through it with a butter knife. It is excellent on so many levels. Their search for Natasha’s father’s killer leads them to Pik and Fouchon, two professional murderers who are woefully unaware of the shitstorm Chance is about to bring raining down upon their heads. When they are found out, they set their sights on Chance and Natasha, but little do they know that the hunters are about to become the motherfucking hunted.
A quick sidebar: One thing that deserves to be mentioned about Hard Target is the vast array of wildly impractical weaponry that is used. Fouchon’s main weapon is a pistol that can only shoot one round at a time, whose shell casing then has to be manually removed after each shot and then reloaded again by hand. If he’s lucky, he can probably get off five rounds per minute. I’m no expert, but that sounds fucking retarded. However, the guys in the prop department redeem themselves with this beauty:
That’s right, he’s got a fucking telescope on top of his gun. A normal sized scope would not suffice in this case, because after all you never know when you might need a weapon with the long range capability to really reach out and touch somebody… In space.
Back to the film though. As Pik and Fouchon pursue Chance and Natasha, they are lead into the deep Louisiana Bayou where the hero of Diabeetus himself makes his debut. Wilford Brimley plays Uncle Douvee, an overall-wearing moonshiner who speaks incomprehensible French and is an adept marksman with a bow and arrow. Like his nephew Chance, Uncle Douvee is well-versed in the art of stomping faces.
Looks like his blood sugar is doing just fine to me. The film comes to a roaring crescendo when both Chance and Uncle Douvee lead their pursuers into an abandoned warehouse and proceed to conduct a brilliant symphony of death and mayhem. To cap it all off, Chance drops a hair-raising one-liner: “Hunting season is over,” before dropping a grenade into Fouchon’s pants and blowing him up from the balls out. A fitting end for a truly evil man.
When the dust settles, Chance, Natasha, and Douvee embrace in a heap, their emotions drained just as much as the magazines in their weapons. It was a wild ride, complete with Chance executing perfect front flips through at least five flaming infernos, men standing on top of speeding motorcycles while firing automatic weapons, and a body count higher than Mount Everest. My type of film. If you enjoy pulse pounding action, great hair styles, and anything involving Wildford Brimley, check out Hard Target.