Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hard Target - Director's Cut

The Action Mutant…
says neckties are dangerous for a reason!

Hard Target (Director’s Cut)

review by Joe Burrows

So, you know something good had to bring me back out of hiding and it has, courtesy of a submission on a certain viral video site. It’s like hitting free porn on your computer, except people close to you will just think you’re a sociopath instead of a freaky, sex pervert (it’s ok…they probably think the latter about you already). Oh, and what has happened since last I wrote? Well…not much. I started watching Glee recently, which leaves me about as shocked as you are. Dennis Hopper died, which was a stone cold bummer. I remember in my silly, formative years thinking that Hopper’s villain in Speed was the greatest thing I ever seen…and then I saw Blue Velvet! Baby didn’t sleep that night. I learned that a tie is more dangerous than a sledgehammer, pro wrestling refs and soccer refs go to the same school and two oil CEOs may be able to screw in a light bulb but they can’t stop a fucking oil leak! And yes, I realize this part of the review will be very timely in five years or so. Then again, so will this whole Jersey/reality TV craze (one can only hope).

The Plot, as it was:
Check the archives for January 2009. It’s the first review. Dammit, do I have to do everything around here?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Reading of Hard Target’s development makes for a story of turmoil and missed opportunity. After its underwhelming debut in 1993, the legend of Woo’s fabled 116 minute “director’s cut” started making the rounds with bootleg video hounds & collectors all over. The promise of seeing the film as Woo intended it (a 128 minute cut is rumored to exist but Woo prefers this one) gave fans hope, as they figured on seeing either a new bevy of violence or an amazingly better film than what they saw in theaters. Needless to say, both assumptions were half right. Woo’s Target is markedly better than the theater cut but that doesn’t push it into classic territory with A Better Tomorrow or The Killer nor is it as insanely violent as Hard Boiled. The perception of Van Damme being the “infallible hero” still holds true, which pretty much means fans were getting a JCVD flick no matter how long it was (though there are less close ups in this version). Yancy Butler’s corpse-like delivery is still intact, as well as Diabeetus’ goofy Uncle Douvee (complete with greeting dance for Chance in this version). And to clarify, this is also a “work print”, meaning there is no polished open/closing credits, Graeme Revell music (the fill-in music is from other films, reminding me of the glory days of Cannon) and time display in the left hand corner. However, it’s easy to tell that despite the lack of post-production shine, the man was definitely trying to craft something above the norm. There are several small touches that didn’t make it into the final print, such as Chance & Van Cleef using their tracking skills to their fullest and flashbacks seen in different points of the movie than they were in the theatrical cut. Oddly enough, the finale arguably works better in the theatrical cut with Fouchon putting up more of a fight there. The version here has Fouchon talking more trash (and JCVD’s close ups replaced with shots of the bombed out parade floats) but lacks the most humorous touch in his bravura demise (that touch most likely being a Sam Raimi touch added in after the fact)! In all, this is the better edition of the two versions and should be required viewing for Woo fans. (Note: I know I missed stuff…read below)

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!: Same as before.

Body Count/Violence: 44. C-mon, fella, admit it…this is what you wanted to read. You knew mucho violent content was excised from this flick and you wanted to find out about the juicy bits. Let’s go chronologically with this (SPOLIERS!!!):
- The opening hunt of Binder (Chuck Pfarrer) has the prey putting up more of a fight, with Binder actually taking out a henchman in a kill that mirrors one of Chance’s better ones. Binder pulls the arrow out of his shoulder in slow motion and is later shot in the leg by one (explaining that arrow that magically appeared sticking out of his leg as he fell through the bridge in the theatrical cut).
- The Reservoir Dogs homage where Poe’s (Elliot Keener) ear is cut by scissors is intact, with blood flowing freely as the ear is visibly severed. Fouchon punches Poe square in the face, sending blood flying out of his fat jowls.
- The most potent scene of the DC is arguably when Fouchon is playing the piano & shots of big game being hunted down are intercut with it. This was cut out of the theatrical cut, either because it was felt to be too disturbing or may have made viewers think too much. Can’t have either, daddy.
- The cemetery shootout has Elijah (Willie Carpenter) emptying a few more rounds into Zenan (Joe Warfield). Elijah’s death is more prolonged as he gets up after being shot 20 or so times and takes at least 20 more.
- The sequence set off by Poe’s death starts with Det. Mitchell (Kasi Lemmons) taking bloodier bullet hits. Chance takes out an extra biker by gunfire and sets out to be chased. In one of the more perplexing cuts, a black Sedan is shot up by Chance, sent flying into a parked car and explodes. In the theatrical cut, the Sedan is obviously apart of the chase at the beginning but disappears when the chase hits the highway. Chance lets off a few extra shots before crashing the motorcycle into the 4x4 truck.
- The hunters spend more time carefully closing in on Douvee’s shack. Two nameless bikers are set on fire in slow motion before being put out of their misery by Fouchon.
- The warehouse shootout has much more going on this time around. SVEN-OLE gets an extra 15-20 shots before getting the spin-kicking of a lifetime (remember, 528 bullets to the torso won’t work but topped off with a well placed JCVD kick? Money!). Two bikers get extra bullets and a new biker gets gunned down. The hunter in the cowboy hat takes extra bloody hits and Lopacki (Robert Apisa) is not only shot extra by Chance but takes an arrow in the arm from Douvee! Douvee’s one kill by arrow is punctuated by showing that the arrow actually went through the guy’s throat (with the shot of the biker falling to the ground with the arrow piercing through his neck not in the TC). Chance takes out three bikers by bloody gunfire, then unloads more extra rounds into Van Cleef.
- The final shootout between Chance & Fouchon is notably different here. Douvee takes an extra bloody shot to the leg (explaining his limp after being stabbed with the arrow). After the two talk trash to each other, Chance kicks Fouchon down but the next shot is of Fouchon taking Nat hostage (excising the brawling part in between added in afterwards). After Chance kicks Fouchon clear into next week, he avoids saying his big closing TC line (“Hunting season…is over!”), drops the grenade on Fouchon’s lap and he goes ka-boom. The end. Fire up that Creedence, Dude!

Sexuality/Nudity: Did you know there’s a love scene in here between Chance & Nat? No foolin’. It was apparently done away with because it didn’t show enough T&A. Yes because Van Damme’s ass wasn’t showcased enough in his previous starring vehicles. It’s so obvious THAT’S what this film was missing!

Language/Dialogue: Same as before.

How bad was it?:
Critics maintain that while most of the DC is better, it’s not perfect by any means. Still, we would have rather watched this. Thanks, Universal!

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Obviously not. And yet Waterworld was green lighted over this shit.

Film: ***/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2010 The Action Mutant.