Hard Target 2 is no Hard Target. By that I mean it is not called Hard Target, but Hard Target 2. That is the first evidence in my chain of reasoning. But it is also directed by Roel Reine, not John Woo. It also stars Scott Adkins, not Jean Claude Van Damme.
It is also not as good as Hard Target. The ultimate proof on the matter. But it is most certainly worth a watch (and a purchase).
Now that we have established that Hard Target 2 is not Hard Target, let us start with Hard Target. An in the end quite compromised artistic vision in many ways. John Woo not being able to be John Woo by Universal Studios.Not enough balletic violence to be blunt about it. But it still managed to have survived as an iconic Van Damme vehicle, known for its excessive mix of martial arts, poetic gunplay action and extreme mullets. But also incorporating a bunch of bitchin doves and some nice visual touches, some stunning slow motion shots and perfect rhytmic editing to match and you have a pretty sweet film.
Great movie. Highly recommended.
Hard Target 2 takes the formula of rich assholes hunting desperate poor people,, switchning locales from vibrant, desolate New Orleans, to not-so-vibrant but still desolate Burma. It still looks cool with all the jungle shit and all. Jean-Claude Van Damme is no longer part of this dangerous game of man vs man. Instead we have 21st Century´s version; Mr Scott Adkins( Undisputed 2-4, Ninja 1-2, Universal Sodlier Day of Reckoning) I´m afraid he has no mullet, but makes it up with a ferocious agility and some deadly legs to kick ass with.
Like previously said, the plot switches the background of poverty in Lousiana, to a more isolated, manfree environment. Surprisingly considerate by these rich assholes,, as there is less chance of collateral damage. Probably also considerate to the restrictions of the budget. It is also a very tired cliche in terms of thematics. But I am cool with it. We don´t get enough jungle action these days.
Adkins plays Baylor, an MMA -fighter, accidentally killing his best friend in the ring, gives up his career and ends upp pugilizing himself for a few bucks in remote locations. That is when the villain of this piece Robert Knepper ( Prison Break) notices his talent and offers a one-match only deal in which he can cash in half a million dollars. Too late he realizes all they want to do is hunt his ass.
Compared to the original, this skips to the point fairly fast, like a good exploitation genre mnovie should. But before we get to teh hunt, we also get to know Baylor through several minor fight sequences in which each one makes him progress through the world of underground fighting. His first fight is in a shitty barn and the last fight before the hunt takes place on some rich assholes rooftop in which Baylor meets the villain.
Besides Robert Knepper, we also have in villainous roles, Temuera Morrison ( Once were Warriors) and Rhona Mitra ( ehhh...) to give the villains at elast some color. Among the hunters is also a douchebag computernerd, claiming himself to be the Mark Zuckerbergs of FPS´s. Jesus, what an ass. There is also a hilariously camp spaniard bullfighter and some dumb hillbillies to round out the villainy.
The film flows along fairly nicely, the action is decent, but the low budget is apparent. They have used some overhead drone shots to give the film more production value, even though it is a bit overused. We don´t need sixty establishing shots of the jungle. But other than that the cinematography is surprisingly nice. The fights could have used some more flair to make it more exciting as there is nothing in the action deppartment that matches Woo´s visceral style from part 1
Roel Reine might not be an auteur, but he is the kind of meat and potatoes-director I can appreciate , as he does not try go beyond his paygrade but delivers a fairly enjoyable sequel with some nice cinematography, like his previous sequel Man with teh Iron Fists 2. He infuses these type of DTV-sequels with a look that makes the film feel a bit more expensive than it really is and as a whole give it a more roudned presentation than most low budget straight to video actioners.
Adkins proves once again his physical abilities in more ways than in just the fights. He gets to run, climb,swim, and jump around a lot and I am convinced he is doing most of it.
It´s no Turkey Shoot or Hard Target. But it is Hard Target 2. And that is good enough.