Take the classic premise of “The Most Dangerous Game,” add Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a butt-kicking drifter named Chance Boudreaux and John Woo’s flare for doves and bullet ballet, and you’ve got “Hard Target.” Boudreaux is hired by Natasha (Yancy Butler) to track down her missing father, only to discover a sadistic group of wealthy men who hunt homeless people for sport. Boudreaux is thrown into this game of life or death, and let’s just say the bad guys took a “Chance” on the wrong contestant for their sinister game. This movie is cheesy and excellent, with split-kicks, flying bullets, Van Damme’s fantastic flowing mullet, and slow-motion galore.
“Hard Target” is often overlooked in John Woo’s epic filmography. After directing Hong Kong action masterpieces like “Hard Boiled,” “The Killer,” and “A Better Tomorrow,” Hollywood came knocking. His biggest hit in the U.S. was “Face/Off,” the bonkers cult classic where Nicolas Cage and John Travolta trade faces, but “Hard Target” is a solid action film. It’s also a prime slice of ’90s cheese, with one-liners aplenty, the same roundhouse kick showcased from multiple angles for maximum impact, and a fiery showdown between Van Damme and genre favorite Lance Henricksen with Woo’s trademark doves flying amidst the beautifully choreographed mayhem. There’s even a scene where Van Damme grabs a rattlesnake with his bare hands, punches it into unconsciousness, and then bites off its rattle. If that isn’t a perfect mix of silly and awesome, we don’t know what is.