dir. John Woo
I had quite the crisis while watching John Woo's American debut Hard Target. Before I get into any of that, however, I wanna point out that this is the first of Woo's American pictures I've seen. I've long been a fan of the man's Hong Kong output (The Killer, Hard Boiled), so, given the reputation of his American films, I've always been reluctant to give these films a shot.
Fortunately, Netflix made the decision for me, releasing Hard Target, Broken Arrow, and Face/Off on their streaming service. I had no choice. And now that I've made it through my first, what do I think?
Well, yes, Van Damme has a killer mullet, but—What? Not a good enough vantage? Here's another look (note the relative levels of party/business mobility):
Still confused about Van Damme's top-to-back hair-mobility ratio?
But where was I? Yes, Woo. Well...I enjoyed Hard Target. In fact, it left me downright giddy. But the thing is, I laughed through most of it. And I don't think humor was Woo's intention. I mean, aside from the ludicrous The Most Dangerous Game-inspired plot (Lance Henriksen hunts man; Van Damme objects), the hilarious datedness (if Van Damme's hairstyle didn't clue you into the movie's era, the screaming guitars will), I also found Woo's techniques downright silly. And the film-making tools Woo employed here are no different than those he perfected in his Hong Kong films—Slo-mo: check; sideways-falling double-gun shoot-outs: check.
So, why was I awed by his Hong Kong pictures but left in a severe case of the giggle fits while watching this?
Well, OK, Van Damme the snake puncher was a bit silly and beneath Woo, but I'm not gonna dwell on that.
Fine, yes, Van Damme also bites the rattle off a rattler. But, like I said, I'm not gonna dwell on the snake shenanigans.
Seriously, no more. Anyway, why the different reactions to these otherwise similar films? I haven't seen the Hong Kong pictures in at least ten years. Could they, dare I say, not be as good as I remember? Have Woo's techniques just been so co-opted by the mainstream as to become not only run-of-the-mill, but also hilariously cliched? Or did I, at my younger age, simply over-value the earlier Woo pictures just because they were in a foreign language? Simply, was I too quick to give those pictures undue praise simply for their non-American-ness? Isn't Hard Target, after all, simply an exact replica of Woo's earlier films—but in English?