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Hard Target

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . R . PAL


Ah, Hard Target. I feel sorry for John Woo, a man with several brilliant Hong Kong action pics under his belt (The Killer, Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head), lured to Hollywood, and tricked into working with whom? One of the least talented B-list individuals in the business; Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Even his hideous mullet haircut easily outacts him in this desperately average knuckledragger.

Lance Henriksen plays to type as Fouchon, the sadistic head of an illegal group utilising homeless Vietnam vets as game for rich hunters. You'll also recognise Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy in the recent film of the same title) as his henchman, Van Cleaf. Van Damme is Chance Boudreaux (yes, action films must have stupidly named heroes), assisting a saucy girl whose father was killed by the group.

The script probably read reasonably well, but the end result is dragged down by Van Damme's appalling acting and an obvious pandering to his target audience (the beer-swilling Saturday night video crowd). Apparently a director's cut exists which integrates more typical Woo touches. This version does have more footage than the US release, however.


The picture is not anamorphically enhanced, so doesn't exhibit as much detail and clarity as a reference transfer. Colour is fairly good, and the same can be said of shadow detail. MPEG artifacts are nowhere to be found, as the bandwidth rarely drops below 7Mb/sec.

The real problem I have with the picture, however, isn't technical, but aesthetic. The cinematography is crap! Whether it's the cheap film stock used or the sensibilities of cinematographer Russell Carpenter, the image has all the richness and warmth of an episode of Burke's Backyard. That is, it looks more like video than film. A real disappointment after Hard Boiled.

There are a few film artifacts, and some slight aliasing, the most visually interesting example of which were strange wobbling train tracks at the 58 minute mark.


While the video looks cheap, the audio doesn't suffer the same fate. From the get-go my room was completed saturated with well-recorded sound. The surround channels are used very aggressively, with lots of front-rear pans and split surround activity. The score is well recorded and fills the room nicely.

Unfortunately, the sound is too grandscale - the bass level is ridiculously overemphasised. When somebody is punched, falls and hits the ground, it sounds like a Hiace has just run into the front of your house! The excessive bass had my room shuddering annoyingly; I even checked my levels to see if the LFE channel had been accidentally boosted! Sometimes a little restraint can be good, y'know?


Filmographies and production notes.

Excuse me, I... just.... zzzzzzz.


Well, if you like Van Damme movies, this is one of his best. However, if you like John Woo flicks, or intelligent action films in general, this occupies a rung somewhere between Alien 4 and Speed 2. Try and find Woo's earlier Hong Kong efforts, in particular the masterful The Killer and the explosive Hard Boiled.

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