Hard Target (John Woo, 1993, USA, 97 min.)
Part of Strange Brew: Cult Films presented by The Webster Film Series at Schlafly Bottleworks
Presented in Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood, MO 63143.
Hard Target is a 1993 American action film directed by Chinese director John Woo. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Chance Boudreaux, an out-of-work Cajun merchant seaman who saves a young woman, Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler), from a gang of thugs in New Orleans. Chance learns that Binder is searching for her missing father (Chuck Pfarrer), and agrees to aid Binder in her search. Boudreaux and Binder soon learn that Binder’s father has died at the hands of wealthy sportsman Emil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) who hunts homeless men as a form of recreation.
Hard Target was John Woo’s first American film and was also the first major Hollywood film made by a Chinese director. Universal Pictures was nervous on having Woo direct a feature, and sent in director Sam Raimi to look over the film’s production and to take Woo’s place as director if he were to fail. Woo went through several scripts finding mostly martial arts films with which he was not interested. After deciding on Chuck Pfarrer’s script for Hard Target, Woo wanted to have actor Kurt Russell in the lead role, but found Russell too busy with other projects. Woo then went with Universal’s initial choice of having Jean-Claude Van Damme star. Woo got along with Van Damme during filming and raised the amount of action in the film as he knew that Van Damme was up for it.
After 65 days of filming in New Orleans, Woo had trouble with the Motion Picture Association of America to secure the R rating that Universal wanted. Woo made dozens of cuts to the film until the MPAA allowed it an R rating. On its initial release, Hard Target was a financial success but received mixed reviews from film critics. Critics found Hard Target to have good action scenes but noted the weak script and poor quality acting from Jean-Claude Van Damme.