Film: Hard Target

"Now take your pig stick and your boyfriend, and find a bus to catch."

The first film that John Woo made in Hollywood after leaving Hong Kong, Hard Target starts off with a homeless man fleeing attackers on motorcycles, before being shot down just before he escapes across a river. Cut to three weeks later, when Natasha Binder (played by Yancy Butler) is looking for her father deep in the heart of New Orleans. Jean-Claude Van Damme... sorry, "Chance" Boudreaux, saves her from a gang. Natasha, after being told that the police won't be able to find her father, hires Chance to protect her as she investigates. Soon, the pair find out about a secret "hunting" ring, led by Big Bad Emil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) and Professional Killer Pik Van Cleaf (Arnold Vosloo) and must turn the tables on the hunters.

The movie is chock-full of John Woo's signature style, especially in the action scenes. Slo-mo, motorcycles exploding, and pigeons abound as Van Damme kicks and shoots dozens of mooks. All while sporting a mullet. And being aided by Wilford Brimley. Needless to say, there are some who consider it So Bad, It's Good, completely awful, genuinely awesome, or somewhere in between all three.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The final climatic battle takes place in one.
  • Adrenaline Time: Heavily Invoked, even for a John Woo film. Pretty much every action shot (and many a non-action shot) in the film is either: Shot in slow-motion; followed up by a slow-motion replay; followed up by a snap replay from multiple different angles, or, most of the time, all of the above.
  • Armies Are Evil: Fouchon despises militaries, which is why he exclusively targets combat veterans for his deadly game.
  • Attempted Rape: The thugs who rob Natasha also try to rape her too. Boudreaux intervenes.
  • Badass Grandpa: Wilford Brimley, believe it or not, playing Van Damme's Uncle Douvet.
  • Badass Longcoat: Applies to both Chance, and Emil Fouchon (the Big Bad).
  • The Big Bad: Emil Fouchon, who runs a hunting ring that continuously changes location. He's been in Rio de Janeiro and Yugoslavia, and happens to be in New Orleans this time.
  • The Big Easy: The movie takes place in downtown New Orleans, and moves into the bayous for its big climax.
  • Blown Across the Room: The shotguns in this movie can knock you halfway across a room.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Surprisingly downplayed for a John Woo movie. Chance and the bad guys reload quite a bit. Chance in particular is constantly scavenging extra magazines from dead baddies once he gets a gun. The trope is still present in that many of the guns shoot more rounds than their magazines can hold, but one of the guns Chance acquires has an extended magazine, justifying this to a degree.
  • Butt Monkey: Randall Poe, full stop. Also Asshole Victim at the same time, considering he's the one who leads on homeless vets and selects them for Fouchon's game under the guise of giving them a job.
  • Cigar Chomper: Stephan, one of the hunters that Fouchon brings in to hunt Boudreaux.
  • Cool Guns: Lots, but the crowner is Fouchon's Thompson Contender.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Douvet
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Van Cleaf uses a pair of scissors to cut off part of Randall's right ear to make him spill the beans on who Douglas Binder really was.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The unarmed prey vs. a team of hunters with vehicles and firearms.
  • Death by Cameo: The homeless veteran who gets killed during the opening action sequence? (later reavealed to be Douglas Binder, father to Nat Binder) Writer and co-producer Chuck Pfarrer.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock
  • The Dragon: Pik Van Cleaf is this to Emil Fouchon, the Big Bad.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Fouchon and Van Cleaf target homeless veterans. Chance and Natasha aim to prove that they are not disposable.
  • Disturbed Doves: A John Woo staple!
  • The Drifter: Chance Boudreaux.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: There's a lot of fire imagery used for the Big Bad.
  • Eye Scream: Someone gets shot in the eye while looking through a peephole in the door.
  • Game of Chicken: The normal rules of the game not being cool enough for Chance, he decides the best way to make things interesting is to climb on top of the bike he's riding, let go of the handlebars and stand up straight with his feet on the seat.
  • Gangsta Style: A mook gets dispatched this way, with the gun being held upside-down in the left hand and the trigger being pulled with the forefinger of the right.
  • Ghost City: After the early scene where Chance is eating at the local diner, everyone in New Orleans who isn't integral to the plot seemingly vanishes, leaving (literally) no-one else around, even during broad daylight. The villains use this to their advantage, gunning down and killing people in the middle of the day.
  • Groin Attack: Van Damme finishes off The Big Bad this way. Using a grenade.
  • Guns Akimbo: Duh. It's a John Woo movie.
  • Gun Fu: Multiple times, Chance gives combatants a roundhouse kick after emptying half a magazine into their center mass, point-blank range...And then shoots them some more for good measure.
  • Hand Cannon. The Big Bad's Thompson Center Contender.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: What most of the plot is centered around.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: A lot of the bad guys with Fouchon can't shoot for crap. Justified in that many of them are rich assholes who are in it for the thrill and have never held a gun in their lives.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed
  • Oh, Crap: "Whoops." *Boom!*
  • Out of the Inferno / Outrun the Fireball: Used lots of times. It's a John Woo movie. Duh.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Uncle Douvee shows promise at first, but his French accent degrades quickly, at times almost sounding Indian.
  • Parental Substitute: Uncle Douvet to Chance.]
  • Pocket Protector: Douvet survives Fouchon's stabbing attack thanks to his steel whiskey flask.
  • Police Are Useless: The New Orleans police department is on strike, which is why Fouchon is able to carry out his hunting ring with impunity. It also helps that the police coroner is on his payroll, and covers up the details of Binder's death. Detective Mitchell is the only officer who tries to help Natasha. She gets killed by Van Cleaf.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hunting season... is over."
  • Professional Killer: Van Cleaf prides himself on being one of these.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In one scene that borders on parody, Chance tells Natasha to close her eyes and not move. Assuming he is going to kiss her, she complies. Chance leans in and...grabs the giant poisonous snake hovering behind her head. He then disables said snake with a punch to the face (!) and strings it up in a tree, to serve as a trap for the villains who are tracking them. If you guessed that the snake wakes up exactly as the villains are passing by and ends up attached to a mook's face, then A Winner Is You.
  • Rule of Cool: It's the fuel that drives the entire film.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Unusually subverted (See Shotguns Are Just Better).
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Subverted, in a rare nod to reality. While the shotguns used are the standard, super-powerful movie versions, Chance's shotgun is rendered useless by the Hostage Situation at the film's end, due to the weapon's spread pattern.
  • Shout-Out: Pik Van Cleaf is named after Lee Van Cleef.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: In spades. During shoot-outs, everything hit by a bullet explodes in a massive shower of ricochet sparks, including forest undergrowth.
  • Unflinching Walk: Repeat after me - It's a John Woo movie.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Fouchon gets more aggravated as the hunt for Boudreaux goes on, culminating with Pik's death.
  • Villainous Widow's Peak: Pik Van Cleaf.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Near the end, Fouchon orders Van Cleaf to pursue Chance by helicopter and make sure he reaches the warehouse. Van Cleaf says he can easily kill him from the air, but Fouchon insists that Chance make it to the warehouse, so he can kill him from the ground.
  • Wicked Cultured: Fouchon, as evident by his intensive piano playing.