Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Hard Target 2

Universal only waited 23 years to produce a sequel to HARD TARGET, an excellent Jean-Claude Van Damme film loosely based on Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game.” Not wanting to rock the boat too much, HARD TARGET 2 follows the same basic storyline, only set in Thailand, rather than New Orleans.

While director Roel Reine (DEATH RACE 2) is no John Woo, the Asian action specialist who directed the smashing first film, he’s one of the two or three best filmmakers working in the direct-to-DVD/VOD action genre today. And while Van Damme deservedly has his fans, HARD TARGET 2 star Scott Adkins (NINJA) is more than capable of filling his shoes.

Considering the talent and credentials of both Reine and Adkins, it comes as little surprise that HARD TARGET 2 is quite a fine action movie, which is mainly held back by its budget, reportedly under $5 million for a mere 20 shooting days. It’s difficult to film complicated action sequences on a 20-day shooting schedule, though Reine, aided by the lush Southeast Asian jungle, manages to make HARD TARGET 2 look good (he photographed the movie as well as directed it). Some fight scenes have a rushed look to them, including Adkins’ MMA bout, in which his opponent generously stands with his arms down long enough for Adkins to do a double spin while delivering a fatal kick. Reine’s weakness is a fondness for annoying speed-ramping, which has never enhanced an action scene and certainly doesn’t here.

Yes, Adkins is an MMA fighter named Wes Baylor in HARD TARGET 2. As all fighters/kickboxers do in this type of film, Wes accidentally kills an opponent, quits the MMA out of guilt, and retires to a debaucherous, pathetic life of booze and squalor in Bangkok, sometimes competing in underground bare knuckles brawls for whiskey money (so why quit the pro ranks?). Then rich asshole Jonah Aldrich (PRISON BREAK scumbag Robert Knepper) makes an offer Wes can’t refuse: $1 million for one big fight in Myanmar.

Psych! There ain’t no big fight in Myanmar. Instead, Wes is the latest game being pursued by Aldrich and his perverse hunters, who include Aldrich’s right-hand man (Temuera Morrison), a macho dad/wimp son combo (like SURVIVING THE GAME), and the leather-clad Sofia (Rhona Mitra), a sultry sureshot with a crossbow. Set loose in the jungle with a water bottle, a million bucks in rubies, and a two-minute lead on the seven psychopaths on his rear, Wes finds an ally in Tha (Ann Truong), a young native woman who helps him try to reach the border ahead of his pursuers.

Knepper, who looks and sounds like the heir apparent to Lance Henriksen, is pretty great playing the heavy. His job is to keep the movie interesting between the action scenes, and Knepper, who somehow managed to turn a degenerate child molester on PRISON BREAK into someone to root for, succeeds with an eccentric performance that almost makes you like the little monster. Certainly the glee he demonstrates when handing out rocket-launching motorcycles to his hunters is infectious. As for the rest of the supporting cast, only Mitra stands out (Peter Hardy’s stereotypical middle-aged Texan inexplicably has an Australian accent).

1 comment:

Glen Davis said...

I enjoyed this one, but I felt the attempts to humanize the hunters were misguided. The computer geek was a complete waste of time, as was the guy who talked about honor all the time. I felt like they were trying to show some kind of contrast/rivalry between the two women, but there just wasn't time to go into it much.