HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Hard Target 2
HTS Overall Score:82
Everyone who grew up in the 90s and loved action movies remembers the pure awesome awfulness that was “Hard Target”. Starring Jean Claude Van Damme, it was basically an adaptation of the old short story “The Most Dangerous Game”. A tale where a man was hunted by his fellow man, after they have become tired of hunting beasts. What better way to hunt than to hunt a prey who can think like you do. Fight like you do, and ultimately has the ability to become the hunted. Directed by famed action director John Woo, it was a kinetic blast of energy that was made even more fun with the inclusion of Van Damme at his pride, sporting a mullet, trying to put on a Cajun accent AND giving us some of the greatest scenes in movie history. The main one that comes to mind is his punching a snake in the face and knocking it unconscious (like the .gif of Van Damme dancing in that ridiculous leotard, that particular scene with the snake has become the butt of many a .gif and meme over the years). There was so much cheese and awesome 90’s machismo that it has become one of my most revered and guiltily loved movies to date, and I have owned it on no less than 4 different formats since it came out in 1993.
So by my gushing above you can tell that I was a little bit of a fan of “Hard Target”, and my love for the Van Damme actioneer pushed me to IMMEDIATELY accept a review request for “Hard Target 2”, starring Scott Adkins, who happens to be the spiritual successor to Van Damme (although not nearly as charismatic as the Muscles from Brussels was). This time Scott Adkins is playing Wes “The Jailor” Baylor, a retired MMA fighter living in Bangkok and fighting for redemption. 6 months back he accidentally killed his best friend in the ring and ran away to cover his guilt and shame. Given the opportunity by fight promoter Aldrich (Robert Knepper), he is pulled away to Myanmar (formerly Burma) to fight one giant match for the grand prize of one million dollars in Rubies. The thing is, the fight is not exactly what he thought it was. He’s fighting for his life, hunted by people who have paid a fortune to Aldrich for the chance to hunt the most dangerous game, him.
Given a 2 minute head start, Baylor is put to the test with a cadre of hunters just salivating at the chance of taking his head as a trophy. However, the ex MMA fighter is not about to go down without a fight. They say that the most dangers game is not the smartest, but the one who has his nothing to lose and has his back up against the wall. Playing the game on his own level, the hunters soon start to fall to the hardened warrior, causing them to up their ante with heavier duty weaponry and more gear to take on what seemed like fairly easy prey. Meeting up with a girl looking for her brother, who also happens to have been a victim of the “game”, Baylor uses everything at his disposal to come out the winner. Even if by winning he has to kill once more. Something he had hoped he never would have to do after his accident.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78018[/img]DTV action flicks are a dime a dozen, and 9 times out of 10 complete trash. Not to mention making a sequel 23 years AFTER the original rarely turns out well. However, I was actually pleasantly surprised by “Hard Target 2”. It’s not a GREAT movie, especially since it doesn’t have the guiding hand of a director as legendary in the action scene as John Woo, but it ended up being surprisingly good. I mean, we’re really not here to watch “Citizen Kane” with a movie called “Hard Target 2”, we’re here to watch big beefy men beat the living tar out of each other with hard hitting martial arts and blow stuff up. And that’s exactly what happens here. Scott Adkins punches and kicks his way through a plethora of bad guys and looks good doing so. I grinned, I cheered and I laughed as he does everything besides go into “The Matrix” bullet time mode dispatching baddy after baddy.
Rhona Mitra was advertised as a big front runner for the film, but interestingly enough she plays a fairly minor role as one of the hunters (and a fairly mediocre fight scene between her and the obviously more skilled Adkins). The rest of the hunters are thruway characters, except for Madden (played by New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison, best known for playing Jango Fett in the “Star Wars” prequel movies) and Robert Knepper, who plays a fantastically twisted villain. Ironically he also kind of looks like Lance Henricksen who played the big baddie in the original “Hard Target” (and carries a single shot bore gun much like Lance’s character as well. Something probably done on purpose).
While I enjoyed the film a lot there was some definite DTV stupidity as well. There was a TON of slow motion action shots with arrows diving for the camera, or punches being thrown under slow motion, and other ridiculousness that just felt like the camera director was having way too much fun with the slo-mo dial on his effects mixer. Then of course there was the whole story with the Burmese girl, Tha, and her brother. Honestly, their role in the movie was very limited and actually served to slow the pace down. Had they trimmed the 15-20 minutes that they were included in the film it still would have clocked in at a healthy 90 (ish) minutes and would have been ZERO worse for wear with that subplot sliced out.
Rated R for violence and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78026[/img]Shot using some sort of digital cameras (I couldn’t find out just which cameras were used) in the standard 1.78:1 aspect ratio, “Hard Target 2” looks simply fantastic on Blu-ray. Glossy and clean as a whistle, the film is full of richly colored Myanmar jungle environments, with bright greens and earthy browns. Fine detail is razor sharp, and clear as a digital whistle. I did notice some noise in a few spots, as well as some wavering on wide angle pans, but overall it’s a very crisp and clean image. Black levels are inky and deep, with not sings of any major artifacting. Sometimes the image DOES look a tad flat, which shows up in the greying of colors in a few bits as well as slightly ashen skin tones.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78034[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a beast of a track, filled with all the thunderous LFE and boisterous activity that would expect from an action track. The film starts out with a bang as Baylor pounds away with his fists and feet in the ring, and doesn’t let up the entire film. Gunshots and explosions ring out with powerful weight and each pistol shot sounds like a howitzer cannon going off. The score is pulsing and energetic, adding a sense of urgency and intensity to the action oriented flick. Dialog is crisp and clean, with the only times I had to strain to hear something was when Adkin’s mumbles a bit too much, like he is prone to do.
• Deleted Scenes
• Hard Target 2: Through the Lens
• Deleted Shot Montage
• Into the Jungle: On Location of Hard Target 2
• A Fighting Chance: Behind-the-Scenes of Hard Target 2
• Thrill of the Hunt – Learn more about the characters in the film and their backstories
• Feature Commentary with Director Roel Reiné and Stars Scott Adkins and Robert Knepper, Composer Trevor Morris, and Camera Operator Rolf Dekens
“Hard Target 2” isn’t as fun or as iconic as its predecessor, but Adkins is a fantastic martial artist and one of my favorite modern day non mainstream action stars. His leg control is only second to Michael Jai White, and while he hasn’t got the career of the more famous stars, he is a blast to watch in these hard bitten roles. The DTV flick is surprisingly good compared to what I normally see in the genre and I will happily add it to my collection next to Van Damme’s rendition of the film. Audio and video are top notch, but sadly there’s barely 20 minutes of extras to dig into, but still that doesn’t deter me from recommending it as a watch if you’re a fan of the genre.
Starring: Scott Adkins, Rhona Mitra, Robert Knepper
Directed by: Roel Reine
Written by: Matt Harvey, Dominic Morgan
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Portuguese, Czech DD 2.0, Hungarian, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Thai DTS 5.1
Runtime: 104 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Buy Hard Target 2 On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Give It A Watch
More about Mike