Category Archives: H is for…

H is for… Hidden Agenda

The running gag while watching Hidden Agenda was asking each other, “Does the ‘hidden’ part refer to the plot?”

There was a basic, followable plot that was buried under endless characters, though I do have to give the movie props for naming all of its characters and using their names enough to remember who everyone is. Sometimes I have a heck of a time learning characters’ names.

But, back to the complicated plot of this thriller… It was sort of like the agent/witness protection equivalent of watching a killer animal movie where the writer and director think, “Okay, there’s going to be a shark.” “No, a robot shark.” “A robot shark with a jetpack!” “A robot shark with jetpack and lasers that shoot out of its eyes!”

The result was a simple plot with a likable main character and cast that had a bad guy split across five different characters, and nothing was quite explained well enough–or it was overly explained which slowed down the actual narrative story.

Regardless, Hidden Agenda, directed by Marc S. Grenier, stars Dolph Lundgren as Jason Price, a former FBI agent who specializes in witness protection, or hiding people who need to vanish for their own safety. He has a team who helps him with this, comprised of Connie (Brigitte Paquette), Kevin (Harry Standjofski), and Charlie (Christian Paul). His former childhood friend Sonny (Ted Whittall) is still working for the FBI, but becomes a witness/accessory and needs to use Price’s protection network, Daedalus, to vanish.

Complicating matters are a feud between FBI agent Sam Turgenson (Alan Fawcett) and NSA agent Powell (Francis X. McCarthy) as they hunt down the man Price is currently protecting, Paul Elkert (Serge Houde). Elkert was caught in a sting set up by Sonny, and has a hit out on him. He is followed by Renee Brooks (Maxim Roy), who claims she needs Elkert to get into his safety deposit box.

It’s made quite clear that Price, his team, and the Daedalus network are very effective at hiding people who need protection, and when Sonny is killed while within the network, it is suspected that the Cleaner, an assassin, is inside the network and is hunting for Elkert. Price needs to trace Elkert’s path to find him and protect him, while Renee tags along for her own reasons.

Everything culminates in Montreal, with half the cast dead or arrested, and our heroes receiving an excellent payday while Price and Renee sail off into the sunset with their share of the money.

I wish I could do the plot a little more justice, but as I said, the whole “Price runs Elkert through his network, finds his own life in danger, and has to find Elkert and discover the truth” is buried in a ton of explication and characters. I didn’t even mention Yoesky (Andreas Apergis), who is the one who is actually angry with Elkert.

Anyway, on to the criteria.

A is for… Accents

Dolph is clearly still battling his Swedish accent here, but I don’t know if it would be noticeable to someone who didn’t know that English isn’t his first language.

Yoesky has a…European? accent.

B is for… Bad Guys

It’s clear from the first time they meet that FBI agent Turgenson and Price don’t get along, when Price helps hide Moretti (Jeff Hall), Turgenson’s target. Ultimately he makes Price think the Cleaner is inside his Daedalus network so Price has to go within it himself, and Turgenson can follow him to Elkert. At the end it’s revealed that Turgenson had killed various people within the network, and is wanted on five counts of murder in the first degree.

NSA agent Powell works with Turgenson as much as he has to for the common goal, but it’s ultimately revealed that he’s been using the syndicate (I’m not sure who that is) to “illegally divert weapons to some dirty little war somewhere,” as explained by Price. Elkert knew this, but Powell didn’t want the FBI to know.

Sonny is Price’s friend from childhood, and they grew up in the foster care system together. He is the one who lured Elkert into the sting, and Elkert later explains that Sonny liked the mob lifestyle. Sonny fakes his death during the course of the movie.

The Icarus Group–I totally missed who they are–I think Elkert’s band of villains, thieves, and scoundrels.

The Cleaner is an assassin who threatens Elkert and kills other people during the grand jury hearing, which was secret and so could only be known by someone on the inside. Renee describes him as expensive and that he never misses, and his presence inside Daedalus means there’s a risk he’ll expose all of the targets Price is trying to hide, giving the FBI visibility on where everybody is. At the end it’s revealed that the Cleaner doesn’t exist. …or is it Renee?

Paul Elkert stole money from Yoesky, and is hiding from the FBI. Price’s goal is to use his Daedalus network to get Elkert beyond the vanishing point.

Yoesky was robbed by Elkert, and put the original hit out on him. Elkert made everyone look bad, and is in bed with the FBI.

C is for… Chases

The Feds chase Blue Leisure Suit Man (Moretti, but I like BLSM better) through the Dulles airport, and ultimately onto a runway with an airplane coasting down it. The drive down the runway would have been enough, but with that airplane in the background, gaining on them… let’s just say the chase ended a bit more sedately than it could have, considering what was being telegraphed.

Price and Renee chase after the long-haired thug in Boston, who turns out to be Sonny.

D is for… Damsels

Renee Brooks explains to Price that she was Elkert’s associate at Icarus. She took care of his finances, including setting up shell companies to hide Icarus’s practices. She also goes to the bathroom a lot, for a movie character. Price clearly is interested in more than her skills in handling assets.

Connie is Price’s teammate/coworker, and it’s clear they have a past together. She’s depicted as quite uptight and serious and she doesn’t trust easily, but we also never see her either not at work or not shoved in with Renee, who she clearly doesn’t like (clearly because she’s jealous, for obvious reasons).

E is for… Explosions

The fuel truck involved in the chase on the runway gets stuck in the mud and explodes.

Renee’s car–specifically said to be a rental car–explodes during her super obvious long walk up to it, though it’s later revealed that she used a remote to do it herself.

Price rigs the Boston warehouse to explode.

F is for… Flashbacks

No flashbacks here, though they may have helped clarify people’s relationships.

G is for… Guns

A remote controlled sniper rifle is used to attack the courthouse.

In Pittsburgh there is a sniper.

Price and Sonny have a shootout with the bad guys in the Boston warehouse building.

The climax in Montreal is one giant shootout.

H is for… Helicopters

Despite not one but two helicopters on the dvd cover, there is not a single helicopter in this film. Very disappointing.

I is for… Improvisation

In the beginning Blue Leisure Suit Man uses his suitcase as a sort of battering ram to get through the police when escaping the bathroom.

Elkert is pretty slick using his toupee as a way to hide his safety deposit box key.

While in Jerry’s sporting goods store, Price uses a convenient fishtank as an interrogation tool.

Price uses one of his restaurant’s tables as a projectile.

In Boston Price uses a fire escape as cover and also a way to launch himself at the disguised Sonny.

J is for… Jumping through Solid Objects

In a surprising attempt at real physics for an action movie, the Cleaner makes sure to shoot out the window first, and then make his kill shot. Glass deflects bullets. The glass depicted in the courthouse actually looks like glass, too, not that shattery stuff usually used in movies.

K is for… Kill Count

Sonny shoots a thug, but it’s unclear if Price kills anyone. It doesn’t appear that he does.

L is for… Limitations

Price is unsure if there is actually a break in his system or not.

Renee is a loose cannon that he cannot trust.

Daedalus is a complicated system, and Price is unsure if Elkert dropped or not.

Also, Price is grieving Sonny’s death.

M is for… Motivation

Price needs Elkert’s money to get out of debt and pay his team.

Renee is in it for the money.

Elkert wants to be free from the target on his head (and preferably with his money).

Yoesky wants Elkert dead.

Turgenson wants to get back at Powell, and get the money. He is also going to nail Sonny if he didn’t penetrate the system.

As the film progresses, Price wants to find Elkert.

N is for… Negotiation

Elkert will pay Price one million dollars for the use of the Daedalus network. Price comes back with he needs five million, plus half of the money Elkert stole to go to the charity of his choice.

Powell wants Elkert, and he tells Price he has a lot to lose. Price tells Powell that the only losers will be the marks he ran under for him. “On a need to know basis, there’s some pretty important people who’d rather not be known.”

Renee wants to get to Elkert and needs Price’s help, and in exchange she’ll make sure Price gets his money.

O is for… One Liners

“Do you know who I am?”
Price: Ed McMahon and the Prize Patrol?

“Where’s my money?”
Price: Behind door number one, asshole.

Price: I’ve got to install a revolving door.

Price: Is this pillow talk, Sam?

Price: Can we be adults for two seconds here?

Price: At least you two didn’t strangle each other.

Renee: Where are we going?
Price: If I told you we wouldn’t be safe.

P is for… Profession

Price is a work for hire on a need to know basis. He uses his restaurant, The Breezes, as a cover for his Daedalus protection system. He does two freebies for the NSA in exchange for access to the network.

He graduated from the FBI academy in ‘81 at the top of his class, and was the youngest special protection agent in division history. He has eight commendations, including a Presidential citation. He was suspended twice for insubordination, and the NSA picked him up to use in East Germany.

He devised the Daedalus system, the most sophisticated protection system in the world. The system is used for hiding western agents who’d been exposed. He went private after the wall came down, and has a deal with the NSA.

He’s also handsome, suave, and a good hand-to-hand fighter.

Q is for… Quagmire

Never once did I feel as if Price was outgunned or put in a truly precarious position.

R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief

I’m sure something similar to the Daedalus network exists, especially now.

There weren’t any stunts or anything that seemed outlandish.

S is for… Sidekicks

For the Daedalus network:
Kevin runs transportation.
Connie runs the comm lines.
Charlie seems to work mostly hands-on with the network, and does the route permutations.
Moretti is called in for his knowledge of bank systems so they can pinpoint Elkert’s bank.

T is for… Technology

The Cleaner uses night vision goggles.

The Daedalus network uses a Mersenne prime algorithm that makes it hard to use shadow tracking. “There is a handheld unit with an encrypted flash memory card, and there are more than 150 links along the way when hiding someone. Daedalus uses the least used providers in the NSA system who won’t know what it is all about, but are looking for a trigger code, a break in the chain, an infiltrator that needs to be disposed of. If there is a match, he gives up a new envelope. He’ll get birth certificates, passports, subscriptions. Then on to the next link.” There are also static drops, using safes with codes, and if the wrong code is used, the safe explodes. “If he gets through without mistakes, his trail will forever be erased. He’ll be a ghost.” (This was all Price explicating.)

Dental records are used to confirm Sonny’s death, but they say there are only a few teeth, which doesn’t seem like enough to confirm a death. Guess it makes sense considering Sonny’s not actually dead.

The screen on the Daedalus handheld unit must be rubbed, which leaves DNA behind.

Sonny keeps tabs on Price by putting a tracker in a necklace he gives him.

An email with a Trojan is sent.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

As if the romance between Price and Renee isn’t telegraphed the moment she shows up, particularly with their little wine scene, and then the fake kiss to avoid being seen by the police car. Then of course the weird love scene Price fantasizes about. Gross.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

There really aren’t many vehicles in the film, other than the chase scene on the runway, where the fuel truck pushes against the pickup truck.

W is for… Winning

Price’s team tracks down Elkert, and sends an email with a Trojan virus, alerting everyone to his location in Montreal.

Renee kills Elkert, Turgenson is arrested, and Powell’s corruption is exposed by Price.

Five million dollars gets deposited Connie’s, Kevin’s, and Charlie’s accounts, Daedalus is dismantled, and Price and Renee ride off into the sunset, so to speak.

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor

Renee treats Price for a gash on his head, but other than that he seems fine.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Everyone seems to know each other–it’s a small world. Strange bedfellows and all that.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Every time any part of Daedalus is explained, Price starts narrating like discussing the network is the most fun thing for him.

In Summation

This movie is a confused mess, and I’m sorry I can’t do it more justice. There are a lot of things that are enjoyable, including Lundgren and his team, but concisely outlining the story is challenging. There isn’t even a Wiki page to use for guidance, nor an IMFDB page. It’s not even close to the least watchable movie I’ve reviewed on this site, it’s just the hardest to explain. As I said before, the bad guys are spread across several people, and it’s hard to narrow down who is doing what.

As far as stray observations are concerned:

There’s some weird Ho Yay between Sonny and Price when Sonny is leaving to be put through Daedalus, but that can be due to them growing up together.

LOL at the overweight Jerry trying to take on Lundgren.

There are a lot of weird quick, circular camera angle changes that are reminiscent of Saw.

There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat used instead of guns, which was just sort of weird considering everyone was either a bad guy or government agent. Maybe the movie was just showing responsible uses of force by the agents. Then again, in Montreal, no one had any jurisdiction to be shooting anyone else.

The audience really needed to be shown a dry run to properly understand this Daedalus system, not just Price explaining it.

LOL again at Elkert’s shout of, “Kill them. Kill them all!” to incite the melee in Montreal.

Price has facial hair stubble on the dvd cover, but not in the film. It’s like they took a screenshot from another film entirely to use as the cover here.

Miscellaneous Post: H is for… Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is one of those films that’s an excellent example of “great idea, not so great execution.” Its release also seemed designed to capitalize on Renner’s Marvel/Bourne success, and the current market saturation of fairy tale reimaginings.

I enjoyed the casting; Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are good, and who doesn’t love Famke Jannsen? The concept of witch hunters who are immune—mysteriously, to them—to witchcraft is really interesting, especially combined with the additional mythology about witches that is created, such as the idea of the rot showing on their bodies as they use the dark magic. Talk about two people (Hansel and Gretel) turning their imprisonment—a horrifying, twisting experience—around and making it work for them.

I loved Ben and Edward, and whether or not naming the giant ugly troll “Edward” is a sly kick to the knees of Twilight is unknown. Pihla Viitala was pretty and sweet and I’ve never even heard her name before. It appears that might be because she’s Finnish. I was upset when she wasn’t able to be revived, especially after the healing portrayed earlier in the film.

Though considering Hansel can’t seem to find a town in the middle of the day, making his way back to the healing pool is obviously too much to ask.

Special effects and fight choreography were very good; the fight scenes were a lot of fun to watch. The addition of guns and Tasers into a medieval sort of world somehow worked, possibly because reality is thrown by the wayside by the magic anyway. And making a house out of candy isn’t anywhere near practical. Delicious, yes, practical, no. The diversity of witches obviously took a lot of work, and the climactic fight scene with the entire group of them appeared to feature depictions of witch-like creatures from all over the world, or at least that’s how I’m interpreting it. Could have used more spells that weren’t just energy bolts, like that Curse of Hunger for Crawling Things. That was both gross and clever.

Do trolls actually serve witches, or is that something Edward is told to believe? I don’t recall there being other trolls around.

Some of the dialogue was fun, if a bit predictable: “Whatever you do, don’t eat the fucking candy.” “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” “Who the fuck is Edward?” Though the profanity was a little jarring for some reason, likely the medieval setting.

The film was also gorier than expected, but after the first couple examples it was easy to get used to, even if certain things made me wince (Edward smashing the Sheriff’s head, for example). It just added some grossness in with the action and magic.

My main problem with the film is that it was too short. Frankly it felt like it jumped from halfway through the second act straight into the third, which makes a big difference when it happens only an hour into the movie. The rush opened up a lot of needless plot holes, such as why did the witch let Hansel go and tie him to a tree rather than kill him? He’s just seen riding away and then it cuts to him hanging there, trying very unsuccessfully to look cool in front of Mina. How did Gretel get to their old house? We last see her calling after Edward, and then Hansel finds her in the basement. It’s like a reel was missing and no one bothered to find it.

And for the love of God, Hansel and Gretel didn’t recognize their old town or their old woods? They had to have wandered away from that initial witch’s home, with plenty of time to take in their surroundings. They really didn’t recognize anything at all around their home? Did they never go into town with their parents when they were kids? Did not make any sense. Maybe trauma could have caused memory loss, but they seem to remember everything else about their imprisonment. But why wouldn’t the older townspeople recognize the names ‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’ and realize these are the same people that lived in the house they burned down?

It seems that there’s an extended cut out there that was not what I watched through Redbox. Perhaps some of my concerns are answered in it.

I found the film dark, too, and I don’t mean that metaphorically or atmospherically. I mean as in I wanted to adjust the picture settings on the TV. Even watching it in broad daylight.

BUT, if you’re looking for a crash-and-bash movie with a pretty cast and nice effects/choreography, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters may be a good choice. Especially if you don’t have the time for something longer. It’s fun enough, and seems to have a sequel in the works.

Also, the opening credit sequence is fabulous. Really well done. Just…long, for such a short film.

H is for… Hard Target

Hard Target was one of the few action movies I could find that started with H.  It’s also the first on my list to have a repeat director (John Woo) and a repeat villain (Arnold Vosloo, who was in G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra).

Coincidentally, it has a fairly unoriginal plot; it’s a modern rehashing of Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game.”  Natasha (Yancy Butler) seeks her father and learns he’s homeless, and befriends a man named Chance (Jean-Claude Van Damme) to help her navigate New Orleans to look for him.  They stumble upon a service wherein rich people pay a company run by Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) to hunt homeless veterans, and one of their victims was Natasha’s father.  Fortunately, Chance grew up on the bayou and is able to navigate the hunters through the wilderness and lead them to a warehouse of Mardi Gras floats.  A massive shout out occurs, and with the help of Natasha and his Uncle Douvee (Wilford Brimley), Chance is able to kill all of Fouchon’s men (including Vosloo’s Pik van Cleef).

That seems like… not a lot of plot for a 97-minute movie.  Half of the move is spent developing the Fouchon/van Cleef business, and Natasha getting saved from thugs by Chance, and then getting him to help her look for her father.  It’s quite a long build up considering the viewer is most likely watching for the action scenes.

That said, there is plenty with which to round out the categories!

 

A is for… Accents

Chance of course has Van Damme’s Belgian French accent, which really just sounds kind of strange in New Orleans.

Van Cleef has Vasloo’s South African accent.

Uncle Douvee has what I’m guessing is a French accent, to match Van Damme’s.

 

B is for… Bad Guys

Like with the film Commando, we see the villains before we see the hero (in G.I. Joe the viewer doesn’t know who the bad guy is at first).

At first the villains are dark shapes chasing a homeless man, and they eventually shoot him with arrows.  Scenes of Fouchon, van Cleef, and their associate Randal (Eliott Keener) are intercut with scenes of Natasha and Chance searching for Natasha’s father.  Van Cleef and Fouchon aren’t above torturing Randal, who provides them with the homeless veterans, when he doesn’t provide them with the proper victims.  His job is to find war veterans with no human ties, but instead provides Natasha’s father, and she of course realizes he’s missing.

Fouchon’s base seems to be out of a beautiful planation home.  He plays the piano and watches himself in the mirror, and wears saddle shoes.  He and van Cleef offer the “opportunity to kill with impunity” to private citizens who are in their own “unhappy little corner of the planet.”  Fouchon’s company has bought the cops and the doctor who does autopsies (Marco St. John).

Fouchon is actually very compelling, which is all due to Henriksen’s presence and deep growly voice.  He’s much more interesting to watch than Chance, as he’s personally invested in what he’s doing and ensuring they don’t get caught at it.  Ultimately Fouchon’s own pride is his downfall; he refuses to shoot Chance from a helicopter because it wouldn’t be a challenge.  Forcing the confrontation happen on the ground is what leads to his death.

Van Cleef isn’t very well developed, though he is suitably creepy as Fouchon’s right-hand man.  It’s notable that at one point he wants to give up, but Fouchon refuses.

Fouchon’s company charges $500,000 for each hunt, during which the clients are provided with a guide, trackers, and their weapon of choice.  Fouchon’s men will also dispose of the body and provide an out of town, airtight alibi.  The clients can’t talk over Telex or the phone (Telex being a precursor to fax machines and email).  During the hunt the prey is given a satchel with $10,000 and is told he has to carry that satchel ten miles through the city to the river, and if he makes it he gets to keep it.  He’s given a five minute head start.

 

C is for… Chases

Not surprisingly, there are numerous chases in this film about hunting, including Chance and Natasha being chased on foot through the bayou.

The film opens with a chase, as a homeless man is chased by bad guys both on foot and on motorcycles, which doesn’t quite seem fair.

Another veteran (Willie C. Carpenter) is chased through a cemetery, and after he escapes his hunters there they follow him through the city (him on foot, them in cars and motorcycles) and kill him in the middle of the street.

While van Cleef and his men are shooting at Chance, Natasha, and the police detective (Kasi Lemmons), Chance steals one of their motorcycles, and the bad guys pursue him, firing at him the whole time.

In a more diversified chase, Chance is riding a horse and is being pursued by a helicopter.  He leads the bad guys to an old warehouse, and Fouchon and his minions follow in Jeeps and motorcycles.

 

D is for… Damsels

Natasha originally comes to New Orleans to look for her father, Doug Binder (Chuck Pfarrer), only to learn that he’s recently been homeless.  She hires Chance to help her, to the tune of $217 for two days.

What’s really notable about Natasha is that while she doesn’t really help Chance a lot, for the most part she stays to the side and doesn’t get in his way.  She’s rather undeveloped, but considering her storyline drags on unnecessarily and isn’t really required for the overall concept behind the film, that’s fine.  Honestly, the movie drags through its first half, when it’s Natasha and Chance wandering around, up until they’re actually being hunted.

 

E is for… Explosions

During the opening chase scene, a building explodes when bullets intended for Doug Binder hit it.

During the chase with Chance stealing a motorcycle, another motorcycle explodes for no reason.  Chance of course does a wheelie to pop over it.

Chance fires his acquired gun into a Jeep, and it of course explodes.  It explodes a second time when it gets shot again by the bad guys.

When the snake gets shot in the head, its head explodes.

In John Woo style, bullets fired from the helicopter explode in a shower of sparks on impact with the ground.

Uncle Douvee blows up his own moonshine and home with dynamite.

Chance throws a gas tank into the air, which then explodes when he shoots it.

A grenade gets thrown at the pelican float that Chance is dramatically riding, and it explodes.

Chance shoves a grenade down Fouchon’s pants, and while he is able to get it out and disassemble it, it still sparks and ignites.

 

F is for… Flashbacks

Chance has a flashback to all the good guys who died during the course of the film, including Binder, the other homeless vet, and the detective.

 

G is for… Guns

Details at the IMFDB.

What’s interesting about the film is that the first weapons shown are actually a bow and arrows with three edges.  This movie would be all the rage now considering the massive upheaval in the interest in archery thanks to movies and shows like The Hunger Games, Marvel’s The Avengers, Arrow, and Revolution.

One of the bad guys fires arrows from what looks like a gun, not a crossbow.

The men assisting with the hunting also have machine guns, which also seems unfair.

Another interesting but not gun-related use of weaponry occurs when Chance is attacked while investigating Binder’s murder; the minions attack him with a rope on a stick (like a catch pole) and a baseball bat.

Van Cleef fires a silenced gun through a peephole to kill the medical examiner.

Fouchon’s client Zenan hunts with what looks like an assault weapon.  The tables are turned when his prey gets a hold of it and shoots him with it.

Van Cleef uses the butt of his rifle as a club to break Randal’s car window.  He then shoots him with an explosive result, all over the car’s windshield.

Van Cleef and the police detective engage in a shootout, him with his rifle, her with her service weapon.  More and more bad guys with machine guns join in as Chance fights back by snagging the service weapon and more and more of the bad guys’ weapons as they drop.

Fouchon has a notable single shot pistol that he aims by steadying it on his forearm, and he carries the bullets in a belt around his waist.  It’s, frankly, a little strange compared to the amount of automatic weapons around him.

Uncle Douvee has kept Chance’s old shotgun in his home, though it’s quite dusty because he hasn’t seemed to be taking care of it.

The bad guys open up a storm of bullets on Uncle Douvee’s shack.  Needlessly.

Uncle Douvee also uses a bow and arrows, and uses them to ignite his moonshine and ignite dynamite.

As Chance escapes his uncle’s shack, the bad guys fire at him, and hit an outbuilding instead.  It proceeds to explode.

Chance seems to be a fairly accurate shot while on horseback, even though the men in the helicopter can’t seem to hit him.

The last 20 or so minutes of the movie is basically a shootout.

Hilariously, Chance strips a pistol off of a bad guy and doesn’t bother to turn it around before firing it, so he unloads the magazine into another bad guy with the gun upside down.

Natasha steals a gun and shoots a bad guy with it multiple times, which makes Uncle Douvee angry.  He seems to like the finesse of quieter weapons.

Fouchon has Natasha load his gun for him as he’s holding her hostage, as Chance charges him.  The confrontation becomes gun versus flying kick, and somehow the flying kick wins.

 

H is for… Helicopters

Fouchon has a helicopter he can call on to drop off more hunters and track prey by air.

 

I is for… Improvisation

Chance has to use what he can get from picking up bad guys’ weapons and vehicles.  Jumping onto the train to escape the bridge is clever, though exiting the train in a muddy area was not.

An arrow is used to ignite Uncle Douvee’s moonshine, which itself is used to kill some bad guys and distract them from Chance’s escape.

Chance uses the floats in the warehouse to great effect.

 

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

Doug Binder falls through the dock early in the movie.

In the initial fight where Chance meets Natasha, he kicks a thug through a window.

At the warehouse, Chance leaps through a window, then does it again in a totally different position.  Did no one in the editing room notice that at all?

 

K is for… Kill Count

Chance pretty much kills every single one of Fouchon’s thugs, with Douvee’s and Natasha’s help.  They get shot, blown up, burned, or some combination thereof.  For some reason Chance shoots most of them in the groin first.

 

L is for… Limitations

Other than being severely outnumbered, Chance doesn’t seem to have any limitations.  He obviously has combat training, and knows the area better than the bad guys.  Up until the very end, his uncle and Natasha don’t even get in the way.

 

M is for… Motivation

As usual, the bad guys’ motivation is money.  Fouchon charges $500,000 per hunt, and $750,000 for the hunt against Chance.

As the film progresses, Fouchon is motivated to eliminate Chance at all costs.

Natasha wants to find her father, then solve his murder.

Chance wants money to help Natasha, but once they’re being hunted they want to live, which involves taking out Fouchon and all of his men.

 

N is for… Negotiation

Chance negotiates with Randal; he wants info about the homeless men, and threatens him for it.

Fouchon takes Natasha hostage to force Chance to put down his weapons.

 

O is for… One Liners

Maybe it’s the accent, or maybe it’s the writing, but a lot of Chance’s lines come out as sounding like one liners.

Thug: Why don’t you do yourself a favor?

Chance: I think the favor gonna be done for you.

Chance: You know it’s a shame.  This used to be a nice part of town.

Chance: Would love to help you, but I’m gonna be out of town. (thinks about job on ship) Way out of town.

Chance: Maybe I’m sticking around to run for Mayor.

Detective: You have a real talent, Mr. Boudreaux, for attracting violence.

Chance: What are you going to arrest me for, getting beat up without a license?

Natasha: You look awful.

Chance: You hurt my feelings.

Detective: The wheels turn slow around here.

Chance: Real slow.

Fouchon: This is New Orleans, Mr. Zenan, not Beirut!

Fouchon: God, why didn’t he go fishing?

Fouchon: Now you understand why we insist on payment up front.

Chance: Looks like we missed the party.

Fouchon: It appears we’ll have one last hunt after all.

Natasha: Shouldn’t we be worried about alligators or something?

Chance: If it’ll make you feel better, yeah.

Chance: I’ve got some people after me.

Uncle Douvee: I know.  I can smell them.

Uncle Douvee: Drink. But don’t spill.  Kill the grass.

Van Cleef, to Fouchon: It appears your trophy is ripping you a new orifice.

Fouchon: He’s an annoying fucking insect, and I want him stepped on.  Hard.

Uncle Douvee: Now we put arrows into everyone that’s not Chance.

Natasha: Can you get up?

Uncle Douvee: I cannot dance.  But I can get up.

Fouchon: What made you want to complicate my life like this?

Chance: Poor people get bored too.

Chance: Hunting season…is over.

Uncle Douvee, about his flask with a bullet hole in it: This real catastrophe.  This real bad.

 

P is for… Profession

When we first meet Chance, he has no money and playing with his food—soup or stew of some kind—in a dingy diner.  However he’s clearly a skilled kick boxer, as demonstrated when he takes out the four goons trying to harm Natasha.  During this scene he pulls aside his jacket as if to reveal something on his belt (like a badge or gun), but it’s just empty.  Perhaps this shot—in slow motion—was to increase audience expectation that Chance was a member of law enforcement, then slam home the fact that he isn’t.

He stands on the dock tying a rope, and it’s then revealed that he’s a merchant seaman waiting for assignment.  He had a problem with a prior captain, who was smuggling opium, and Chance broke his jaw.  He owes $217 in dues before he can get back to work.

Fouchon learns that Chance, his new prey, was awarded a silver star and was a member of Marine force recon.  He was also raised in the bayou by his uncle, and Fouchon describes the bayou as being Chance’s country.  All of this, and Chance knowing the truth about what’s going on, makes Chance the perfect prey for Fouchon’s final New Orleans hunt.

 

Q is for… Quagmire

This is another one of those movies where the hero doesn’t have enough limitations for the viewer to ever think he’s truly in danger.  Fouchon’s men can’t hit anything with their guns, Chance is ex-military and knows the region, and even while being grossly out numbered, he doesn’t seem to even break a sweat while killing all of the bad guys.

 

R is for… Reality

Perhaps it’s just that the idea has been used countless times since Connell’s story, but the overall plot doesn’t seem too far-fetched at all.  It’s almost too easy to believe there are people out there who organize hunts of other people.

I will, however, call nonsense on the way Chance is able to shoot accurately while standing on the seat of a moving motorcycle.

 

S is for… Sidekicks

As I’ve mentioned, Natasha is a sidekick in the sense of she at least doesn’t get in Chance’s way and in fact kills a guy in the warehouse.  He’s even more her sidekick as she tries to find her father.  But she’s definitely more of the “damsel” than a full-fledged sidekick.

Uncle Douvee is an amazingly amusing man who obviously loves Chance and is willing to do just about anything for him, including blow up all of his possessions and moonshine.  He participates by getting Chance and Natasha horses, giving Chance a gun, distracting the bad guys with explosions, and bringing his bow and arrows to the warehouse to help kill some bad guys.  He has a thick accent and says the funniest things while helping Chance and Natasha.

 

T is for… Technology

Unlike John Woo’s epic masterpiece Face/Off, there is very little technology in Hard Target.  There are no computers, the movie is pre-Internet, and the plot doesn’t lend itself to gadgets and electronic toys, or at least not in a rundown area of New Orleans.

 

U is for… Unexpected Romance

The future relationship of Natasha and Chance is left utterly open.  The film ends with Chance, Natasha, and Uncle Douvee leaving the warehouse.  There was no overt romantic or sexual interaction between Natasha and Chance, and odds are they part ways after explaining everything to the authorities.  They don’t even live in the same city, and Chance is probably going to go back to his merchant marine job.

 

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

The opening chase scene has a motorcycle being used to knock Doug Binder off a fence.

Most of the rest of the vehicles seem to become weapons on their own after they catch fire, while not necessarily being intentional weapons driven into people or objects.

 

W is for… Winning

In one motion, Chance runs, slides under a table onto his back, and shoots up into van Cleef’s legs, ultimately killing him.  Likely many times over.

Chance shoves a grenade down Fouchon’s pants, after kicking him and knocking his weapon away.  Fouchon is able to get it out and try to dismantle it, but after taking the top off he kind of chuckles at it instead of throwing the pieces in opposite directions.  The grenade of course proceeds to explode.

The entire hunting organization seems to be destroyed at this point; there’s certainly no indication that Fouchon was part of a larger project.

 

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

Chance is injured but not too badly.  His uncle actually patches him up.  I don’t think he’s hurt at all during the final fight.

 

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Randal using the wrong homeless guy led to Natasha looking for her father, Chance getting involved, his own death, and ultimately the downfall of the entire organization.  Fouchon needed to hire somebody better.

 

Z is for… Zone, in the

In order to demonstrate how much of a badass Chance is, he has to fight four thugs without weapons, and does so neatly.

He also manipulates the floats and the warehouse like he owns the place, so perhaps he’s been there before or is really good at assessing locations and how things work in them.

 

So, that’s Hard Target.  It takes quite a while to get started, but once Chance and Natasha are finally being hunted it’s quite entertaining.  Lance Henriksen is extremely convincing and creepy as Fouchon, and Vasloo adds a sinister second-in-command in van Cleef.  I’ve read reviews ragging on Van Damme’s acting, but considering the part, he seems fine.  He has a lot of cheesy lines, though.  Natasha was an okay character, though her thick, dark eyebrows were kind of distracting.

I do want to point out the ridiculousness of Chance punching out the rattlesnake, because such a silly thing deserves mention.  It may not even be the action, but the sound effect used, that’s so amusing.

The final battle scene in the warehouse full of floats is unique, and provided a lot to look at.

But oh my God, the SLOW MOTION.  The movie probably could have been five minutes shorter if there wasn’t slow motion trying to lend gravity to so many seemingly inconsequential things.  We get it, there’s action or something happening here.  Hopefully.  Slow motion is not a way to add edginess and severity to action scenes!  It loses its effectiveness when used too often.  But yes, along with birds and the split screen standoff thing, it’s obviously a Woo trademark, as Face/Off had some of it, too.

Hard Target has a lot going for it, but it could have been streamlined, and Chance more developed.  Henriksen’s Fouchon is excellent, though.