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Film / Hard Target

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Douvee: So, tell me. This man who chase after you, he mad at you for business or pleasure?
Chance: Both.

Hard Target is a 1993 action film directed by John Woo (in his American film debut after making a name for himself in his native Hong Kong) and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The film opens on a homeless man fleeing attackers on motorcycles before being shot down just before he escapes across a river. Three weeks later, Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) is looking for her father deep in the heart of New Orleans. Chance Boudreaux (Van Damme), an out-of-work former Force Recon Marine, saves her from a gang attack; after Natasha is told that the police won't be able to find her father, she 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.

A follow-up to the film, Hard Target 2, was released Direct to Video in 2016. It is directed by Roel Reiné, and stars Scott Adkins.

In this film, it's revealed that the manhunt operations, despite being seemingly eliminated after the culmination of the original film, is still occurring in countries outside of the States. Wes Baylor (Adkins), a professional boxer who accidentally committed murder, ends up fleeing to Thailand where he is the subject of yet another deadly game of manhunt.

While the film's numbered title suggests it to be a sequel, its initial announcement and statements from cast and crew instead referred to it as a reboot. According to Adkins, he and Reiné wanted the film to be a more direct sequel, but executives insisted the film be treated as a standalone. According to Reiné, John Woo was also originally meant to sign on as a producer; the finished film makes no mention of him.

Hard Target 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.
  • Amoral Afrikaner: Pik Van Cleaf, The Dragon to Fouchon.
  • Animal Assassin: Chance uses a deadly snake he knocked out earlier as part of Booby Trap he sets up. It falls on one of Fouchon's hunters and bites he repeatedly. Fouchon blows the head of the snake and then performs a Mercy Kill on the screaming hunter.
  • The Archer: Uncle Douvet decides to help Chance by picking up his bow and arrows.
  • Armies Are Evil: Fouchon despises militaries, which is why he exclusively targets combat veterans for his deadly game.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Uncle Douvee—an experienced hunter and woodsman—chambers a shell in a pump-action shotgun and then tosses it across the room for Chance to catch.
  • Attempted Rape: The thugs who rob Natasha also try to rape her too. Boudreaux intervenes.
  • Badass Biker: Several of Fouchon's mercenaries are motorcycle thugs clad in black, who wears their helmets whether they're on their motorcycles or not.
  • Badass Longcoat: Applies to both Chance, and Emil Fouchon (the Big Bad).
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: The final showdown between Chance Boudreaux and Fouchon, Van Cleaf and the hunters turns into a battle amongst the flames due to old Mardi Gras parade floats apparently being Made of Explodium.
  • 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.
  • Bleed 'Em and Weep: The film contains something of an aversion to this trope: Natasha shoots one of Fouchon's henchmen and is admonished by Uncle Douvee for doing a man's work. He attempts to take the gun off her but she takes it back and walks grimly away.
  • Blown Across the Room: The shotguns in this movie can knock you halfway across a room.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The 100 minute, 116 minute, and 128 minute NC-17 versions are bloodier, gorier, a lot more brutal, and a lot more violent than the theatrical release.
  • 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.
  • Bullet Sparks: Bullets spark...while hitting trees.
  • 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.
  • Clothing Combat: During the fight in the warehouse, Chance ties a grenade inside his shirt as uses it as weighted flail to take down one of the mooks.
  • Cigar Chomper: Stephan, one of the hunters that Fouchon brings in to hunt Boudreaux.
  • 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.
  • Cool Guns: Lots, but the crowner is Fouchon's Thompson Contender. His is a .45-70 version. Towards the end of the film, he forces Natasha to load it for him, suggestively ordering her to "load me".
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Douvet
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The unarmed prey vs. a team of hunters with vehicles and firearms.
    • Chance's first scene has him going up against a gang of muggers. He effortlessly demolishes all of them.
  • 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.
  • Defiant to the End: Fouchon puts up a pretty good fight against Chance right up to his death.
  • Destination Defenestration: Boudreaux kicks one the guys trying to rob Natasha through a window into a diner they all exited moments ago.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Nat cradles the fatally wounded Detective Mitchell in her arms as she dies.
  • Dies Wide Open: Douglas Binder dies like this. Just to show that Van Cleaf is an absolute scumbag (as if the whole hunting sequence hadn't been enough), he closes Binder's eyes with the toe of his boot.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Fouchon is the head of a hunting business which allows rich men to hunt homeless or down-on-their-luck war veterans. Homeless or down-on-their-luck so no one cares, war veterans to make it interesting.
  • Disturbed Doves: A John Woo staple!
  • Dramatic Chase Opening: The film opens with a homeless veteran being pursued by Fouchon and his henchmen.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Used a pretty awful lot by all sides. Chance pulls one with his old shotgun once he gets it to showcase a one-gun Lock-and-Load Montage.
  • The Dragon: Pik Van Cleaf is this to Emil Fouchon, the Big Bad.
  • The Drifter: Chance Boudreaux.
  • Ear Ache: Fouchon and Van Cleef beat Randal and cut his ear as a punishment for sending them a man with a daughter.
    Van Cleaf: Randal, I come back here, I cut me a steak.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Fouchon is completely baffled as to why Chance went out of his way to upend his operations or cares about the people he targets.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: There's a lot of fire imagery used for the Big Bad.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The two villains are played by Arnold Vosloo and Lance Henriksen, putting them squarely in this camp.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Uncle Douvee pulls off a brilliant one. He shoots an arrow that narrowly misses Fouchon's head. It looks like he was aiming at Fouchon but missed. However, the arrow goes on to shatter a jar of moonshine on the bench and the oil lamp behind it. The spilled moonshine ignites, causing the still to blow up. This lights the fuse of the dynamite Uncle Douvee has concealed all over his property, blowing the whole place up.
  • Explosive Stupidity: Fouchon quickly unscrews the fuse assembly from the live grenade he's been gifted with — just not quite quickly enough. What renders this explosive stupidity is that it would have been a hell of a lot quicker to just throw the damn thing away!
  • Extremity Extremist: In classic Van Damme fashion, Chance's fighting style is built mainly around kicks.
  • Eye Scream: Someone gets shot in the eye while looking through a peephole in the door.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Elijah Roper dies standing up rather than begging for his life or mercy when it's clear that the people of New Orleans aren't going to be of any help at all.
    • Fouchon's reaction to realizing the grenade he seemingly disarmed is about to detonate anyway isn't panic, but wry amusement.
    Fouchon: Whoops.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Both Fouchon and Van Cleaf are very charming and polite, able to convince desperate people with honeyed appeals to their damaged sense of self-worth and making mocking polite conversation throughout the film, but are callous sociopaths underneath it.
  • Foreshadowing: And post-shadowing. Randall's job is to get homeless men for Fouchon's manhunt gig, but neither he nor Fouchon ever think (even after they discover that they screwed up with Douglas Binder) that men who are desperate enough to accept a high-paying job with no questions asked (which ends up getting them killed) may also be desperate enough to lie about anything to get it... including not having anybody who will miss them.
    Nat Binder: Why didn't he [my father, who I now just discovered became a homeless man] just... tell me? Why didn't he ask for my help?
    Chance Boudreaux: I've been there. It's hard to ask for help.
  • 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.
  • Gargle Blaster: Dove offers Natasha some of his homemade moonshine while warning her not to spill any as it can "kill the grass" they're standing on.
  • 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.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: When Chance beats up the goons who attempt to mug Natasha, one of them attacks him witha beer bottle. Chance makes the thug hit himself with the bottle instead.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Chance finishes off Fouchon this way. Using a grenade.
    • Natasha 'Nat' Binder fires a semi-automatic rifle to the testicles of a bald, bearded, badass biker dude who calls her "bitch".
  • 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. Fouchon favors a Thompson single-shot pistol (in .45-70 Gov't!) as his main firearm.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: Uncle Douvet is introduced amidst making moonshine.
  • Hollywood Fire: The final showdown between Chance and the bad guys is a Battle Amongst the Flames in a workshop full of old parade floats, but there is no smoke, and no one suffers any ill effects from radiant heat, smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, or any one of the other myriad hazards that should be present in an enclosed, burning, industrial environment.
  • Homage: The ear-cutting scene was included by Woo as a friendly homage to Reservoir Dogs, which included his Mexican Standoff.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Fouchon is the head of a hunting business which allows rich men to hunt homeless or down-on-their-luck war veterans.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Under pressure, most people would probably throw away a grenade instead of trying to unscrew it and remove the fuse.
    • Though he has just received a money belt filled with $10,000, the prey in one hunt doesn't consider paying one of the many bystanders for help.
    • The victim in the beginning of the movie might have made it, had he taken the easier route of falling into the water and swimming. In the case of the victims, though, it should be noted that both men by those times were badly injured, scared out of their minds, and not thinking straight.
  • 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.
  • Improvised Weapon: Fouchon attacks Boudreaux during the final fight with a flaming 2X4.
  • Intimate Telecommunications: The Hunting the Most Dangerous Game victims are selected by a man who distributes phone sex flyers and looks for homeless vets who find the job demeaning.
  • Ironic Echo: "I know you didn't mean to hurt my feelings." Pik uses this line as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner to Randall before cruelly murdering him via a shotgun blast to his head while the latter tried to escape town in his car. Later, he spouts the same line to Boudreaux during the Abandoned Warehouse climax before engaging in a one-on-one gunfight. This time, though, Pik is the one who gets killed.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: Fouchon, all of his goons and several of his top clients all pay the price for being part of his "manhunt for hire" business when they go after the wrong prey.
  • Kubrick Stare: Van Cleaf gives this look to Boudreaux when they first meet in Randall's office.
  • Made of Explodium: If the movie's final action scene is to be believed, decommissioned Mardi Gras floats develop chemical properties of napalm.
  • Made of Iron: Fouchon takes a shotgun blast dead center and gets up and keeps fighting, even briefly throwing down with Chance in hand to hand in the climax. He might have been wearing body armor, but if he was it's exceptionally well concealed.
  • Man on Fire: One unfortunate mook get set on fire after Uncle Douvet blows up his moonshine distillery with a well-placed arrow.
  • Mercy Kill: Fouchon has a habit of doing this to people killing for him when they attacked fatally.
  • Moe Greene Special: Van Cleaf kills Morton by shooting him through his peephole.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Chance. We even get a nice slow pan over his ripped muscles when he strips to a tank top. Also he's played by Jean Claude Van Damme, making him this by default.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Boudreaux kills Stephan by unloading an entire clip of bullets into him, and then kicks him in the face for good measure.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Van Damme's Belgian accent is passed off as a Cajun accent.
  • Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: Chance and Nat escape from Fouchon, Van Cleaf and their mooks by jumping of a bridge onto a freight train passing underneath.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: A rare protagonist example. In the movie's final shootout, Chance is up on an upper catwalk, and then the camera cuts to him hitting a switch, and then he's suddenly on an old parade float overlooking the middle of the warehouse as he starts shooting. It's a fair distance away too, which suggests he couldn't have jumped to it without being seen, at the very least.
  • Oh, Crap!: Fouchon's last words: "Whoops." *Boom!*
  • One-Handed Shotgun Pump: Chance does this a few times during the climactic battle inside an old warehouse.
  • 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. There is a bit of a subversion in the fact that once this one detective starts to press on to try to find who killed Douglas Binder Fouchon decides the gig is up and it would be a good idea to pull stakes and move elsewhere (it's his decision to get rid of Chance and Natasha at all costs that ends up preventing him from doing that).
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Fouchon furiously beats Randall for having chosen a man with a daughter for his hunting game - now that Natasha is looking for his father she'll eventually find out the connection so that means he'll have more troubles to solve.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • "Hunting season... is over."
    • Also, "I know you didn't mean to... hurt my feelings" said by Pik before murdering Randall when the latter tried to escape the town in his car.
  • Professional Killer: Van Cleaf prides himself on being one of these.
  • Pursued Protagonist: The Cold Open of the movie is Binder being hunted for sport through the streets by Mr. Lopacki—Fouchon's latest client—accompanied by Fouchon, Van Cleaf, and Fouchon's 'hounds' on motorbikes.
  • Re-Cut: There is a Director's Cut version only available on bootleg. It features more violence (In a John Woo movie, what a shock), the ear-cutting scene is shown in more grisly detail, and the scene where Fouchon is playing the piano was originally intercut with scenes of animals hunting in Africa. Also, there's a scene of Chance and Natasha confronting their UST that according to scuttlebutt, was dropped when preview audiences complained that they didn't get to see Yancy Butler's tits. One of the good cuts from this is Fouchon's death. In the DC, his death scene is a lot more conventional and lame. As noted above in Executive Meddling, Universal executives and Van Damme were critical of this cut.
  • 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.
  • Revealing Reflection: Chance sees Stephan sneaking up on him in the reflection of the crash helmet visor of the mook he is currently beating up.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Several times during the final act, Van Cleaf advises Fouchon that they should just leave Chance and Binder alone and Run for the Border (the business wouldn't get much damage, anyway — Fouchon was wondering about moving to Eastern Europe earlier because the investigation was becoming annoying). Fouchon is too pissed off about Chance just refusing to die that he not only decides not to run away, but he enlists all of his best regular customers to bolster his mooks' numbers and tosses them all into the fray, leading to the deaths of the aforementioned customers, his own soldiers, Van Cleaf and himself.
  • Rule of Cool: It's the fuel that drives the entire film.
  • Self-Plagiarism: Woo references some of his Hong Kong works:
    • Fouchon kicks a burning barrel at Chance and he jumps over it, as in the climax to Bullet in the Head.
    • Several to Hard Boiled - the one-shot pistol Fouchon uses is the same one used by Mad Dog, Chance and Van Cleaf shoot at each other through windows and a woman shoots a man who slapped her and called her a bitch.
  • Semper Fi: Chance served in the US Marine Corps and earned a Silver Star.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Unusually subverted (See Short-Range Shotgun).
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Chance's shotgun is rendered useless by the Hostage Situation at the film's end, due to the weapon's spread pattern. In reality, Chance isn't nearly far enough away for the shotgun's spread to be a concern, but hey, points for trying.
  • Shopping Cart of Homelessness: Natasha finds her father's belongings in an abandoned shopping cart.
  • Shout-Out: Pik Van Cleaf is named after Lee Van Cleef.
  • Spanner in the Works: Boudreaux becomes this to the whole man-hunting organization by virtue of being too badass for them, and everything starts to unravel when Randall (the man in charge of getting them homeless vets to use as victims) twice just took the homeless men's words at face value (because someone down in the gutter and desperate has no problem saying anything to get a job) and didn't checked whether or not they had families or friends that would get suspicious (and angry) about their deaths.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Averted: Fouchon sticks an arrow through Nat's hair and twists it, holding onto the arrow to give him a proper dominant grip to keep her under control.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: In spades. During shoot-outs, everything hit by a bullet explodes in a massive shower of ricochet sparks, including forest undergrowth.
  • Super Window Jump: Boudreaux evades a grenade blast by jumping through a window.
  • Train Escape: Boudreaux and Natasha perform a Type 2 by jumping on a train passing underneath them to elude Fouchon and his men.
  • *Twang* Hello: The opening scene of the movie is Mr. Lopacki putting a crossbow bolt into the wall beside Binder's head. As Binder jumps away from this, Fouchon's 'hounds' switch on their headlights and Binder realises he is surrounded.
  • Unflinching Walk: Repeat after me - It's a John Woo movie.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The first scene is Fouchon and Van Cleaf hunting down and killing homeless veteran Douglas Binder.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Fouchon gets more aggravated as the hunt for Boudreaux goes on, culminating with Pik's death.
  • Villainous Friendship: Van Cleaf and Fouchon are both monstrous figures but they seem to sincerely like one another with Fouchon being genuinely upset at Van Cleaf's death, even taking the time to close his eyes out of respect.
  • Villainous Valor: Credit where it's due, Van Cleaf and Fouchon are not cowards. They are perfectly willing to fight against Chance with their men and Fouchon, despite being a skinny middle aged man with little combat experience, doesn't go down easy when up against a former Marine and Silver Star recipient who is decades younger and a martial arts expert.
  • Villainous Widow's Peak: Pik Van Cleaf.
  • White Gangbangers: The gang that attempts to rob and rape Nat outside the diner is predominantly white, with a single black member.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: Chance drops a primed hand grenade down Fouchon's pants and then tosses him away.
  • 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.
  • The Worf Effect: Chase himself is ambushed and overwhelmed by two of Fouchon's goons early in the film when he's investigating where Binder supposedly died, establishing the villains as legitimate threats and that the hero may not be able to defeat them head-on unless he's being clever.

Hard Target 2 provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Wes Baylor unintentionally beating Jonny Sutherland to death an MMA match, which leads to Baylor fleeing the country and kick-starting the movie's plot.
  • Call-Back: Wes Baylor executes split-kicks multiple times against his opponents in fight scenes, not unlike Chance from the previous movie. The mercenaries hunting Wes includes several Badass Biker clad in black too, just like in the original.
  • Flare Gun: Used by Wes during the boat chase to blow up a crate of explosives to hold back the mercenaries chasing him.
  • Leap and Fire: With a bow and arrow!
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: The second movie is set largely in Thailand instead of the States.
  • Take It to the Bridge: One lengthy fight scene between Wes and a small team of mercenaries takes place on a bridge.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Wes Baylor fights completely without his shirt in a couple of scenes, with plenty of focus on his abs.

Alternative Title(s): Hard Target 2