Director: John Woo
Producers: James Jacks,Sean Daniel
Excutive Producers:Moshe Diamant,Sam Raimi,Robert Tapert
Written by: Chuck Pfarrer
Film Editor: Bob Murawski
Co-Producers:Terence Chang,Chuck Pfarrer
Music by:Graeme Revell(featuring Kodo)
Director of Photography:Rusell Carpenter
Production Designer:Phil Dagort
After making the excellent
director John Woo was approached by Hollywood executives with an offer to direct the Van Damme
action vehicle,Hard Target. Woo was initially impressed by the original script and the
sincerity of the actor and studios enough to sign on to direct his Hollywood debut. Screenwriter
Chuck Pfarrer wrote the original screenplay based on the cult film The Most Dangerous Game
which a demented millionaire sportsman lured his human prey to a remote island. Cult director
Sam Raimi along with producer Robert Tapert agreed to act as executive producers to the film but
word was the studio hired Raimi as a back-up director in case Woo couldn't deliver. Raimi who
happens to be a big John Woo fan was happy to work alongside with John Woo and even backed Woo up
when a sceptic producer expressed his worry about letting Woo handle a big Hollywood film.
However, it was a learning experience the director would never forget. In Hong Kong, directors are
kings; producers simply stump up the cash and let them get on with it. In Hollywood of course the
profit-motivated producers often calls the shots. Before long, Woo was writing long letters to his
friends in Hong Kong, bemoaning a system where directors, especially unproven Asian ones are cogs
in the machine. Worse still, edgy Universal Studios was keeping John Woo at a tight leash, forcing
him to stick with the agreed storyboard,a disaster for the man who was known for on-set improvisation.
As a result, Woo was unable to bring his fresh innovative ideas to the film as the studios were
afraid that the film might exceed the proposed budget and shooting schedule. For example, Woo
initially dreamed up a speedboat chase for the second half of the film but actor Jean Claude
preferred his idea of Chance having a frantic gun-fight with a helicopter while riding a horse.
Thus the speedboat chase was scrapped but Woo eventually included it in his future Hollywood hit
Worse still, valuable scenes ended up on the cutting floor as it didn't suit the
average Van Damme fan who prefer their Belgium star to kick his way through to the end rather than
shoot his way through. Among them,a valuable love scene was lost and Woo was forced to re-shoot the
ending when many of the preview audiences complain it lacked the high flying kicks of Van Damme.
To add salt to the wound, when John Woo finally fill the screen with enough gunfire,the US
censorship refuse to issue the film a R-certificate,noting that it was much too violent and granted
it a NC-17 rating.Going back into the editing studio, Woo had to pared the film down, several times
in fact because the people at the censorship did not give him a clear picture on which scenes were
too violent.Things got so out of hand, a third person was brought in to edit the film, resulting in
a much "watered-down" John Woo picture.
Woo did however added a few new gunplay skills to his already impressive repertoire, including the
flying reload for slamming new magazines into automatic pistols at a dead run or even while leaping
through the air,allowing Van Damme the opportunity to unleash a fury of bullets in rapid success
without violating credibility. One spectacular piece of gunplay trick Van Damme executes in
Hard Target is an old Navy Seals trick that Woo adopted after witnessing an on-set
demonstration by Ex-Navy Seals Mark Stefanich who serves as Jean Claude Van Damme principal stunt
double. By holding a semi-automatic pistol upside down and fanning the trigger with an index finger,
the actor produces a spray of bullets which sounds remarkably like machine gun fire.
Lance Henriksen plays Emil Fouchon, a ruthless businessman who runs
a game of high-stakes hunting-with human as prey.
When Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) comes to town looking for her
father, she gets more than what she bargains for. Enlisting the help
of a ex-war veteran Chance Boudreaux (Jean Claude Van Damme)
,the two who soon stumbles upon his evil safari.
Being a ex-war veteran himself, Chance is the one person whom Fouchon
cannot seem to beat, which makes him the ultimate trophy.
Despite it's bad response from critics(now, which Van Damme movie
ever got good response from critics ? ), Hard Target is not
that bad of a movie. John Woo fans like myself would learn to like
this movie mainly because of it's beautifully- choreographed action
For sheer action, Hard Target is right up there with John Woo
other best works such as
Hard Boiled .
In fact, many of it's
action scenes were "borrowed" from his 1992 classic
Hard Boiled ,
making us wonder if director John Woo still has his mind on
while filming this movie. For instance, during the
Hard Target finale Natasha gets slapped on the face by a
thug right before she blows him away with a berreta , a scene
familiar to the one in
Hard Boiled .
Van Damme may not be the perfect candidate for a John Woo hero but
he definitely provides a change with his fancy martial art moves and
graceful kicks. In one of the movie's early scenes, director Woo
choreographed one of the best fight sequences I have ever seen,
when Van Damme takes on a couple of street thugs trying to rob
The storyline for Hard Target is also pretty good( far
better than his follow-up,
Broken Arrow ),
necessarily original ( it was a re-make of The Most Dangerous Game)
Having view the original MPAA-approved version, the European extended
version and most recently,the working print; here are my thoughts on
the three versions.
The working print may have some good scenes but there are also several
bad scenes that proved the editor's judgement were pretty sound.
The important romance scene is definitely a must-watch and one of
Van Damme's best moments on the film. However aside from that, there
really isn't much on the working print worth watching, save perhaps
Van Cleaf's hunting skills and some classic lines by Emil Fouchon.
There are also some bad scenes which you might want to skip if
you are watching the workprint such as the male-bonding dance
sequence between Van Damme and his uncle Douvee and the animal hunting
sequence playing in Fouchon's mind.
My advice is try to get hold of the workprint in a trade, don't pay a
sky-high price because it's just not worth it plus Woo doesn't get
any money for it (or Van Damme for that matter). The picture and sound
quality are usually bad so if you are used to watching Hard Target
in 16X9 widescreen with 5.1 Dolby surround sound, you might want to
avoid this too. Instead try to get hold of the European Laserdisc or
DVD to get the extra 3 minutes of footage (included in the workprint)
in widescreen and 5.1 Dolby surround.
Finally, Hard Target is one film which director John Woo
has certainly not wasted his time on, as it's the
"muscles from Brussels" best picture to date and a career achievement
for the director being the first Asian director to direct a Hollywood
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