Bullet Points: Hard Target 2
Hard Target 2 is the sequel that I never even knew I wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, the 1993 original was a great action film. You had Jean-Claude Van Damme with a spectacular mullet and biting rattlesnakes. A supporting cast that included the legendary Lance Henriksen, Yancy Butler, Arnold Vosloo and Wilford Brimley. Plus. the movie was directed by John Woo. (His first English speaking film as a matter of fact). To me the only problem with Hard Target is it got lost in the Van Damme shuffle of that time period and that is probably why I never found myself yearning for another chapter.
Fast forward to 2016 and the news breaks that Hard Target 2 is coming. Who is the star of the film? Scott Adkins! Now Adkins had me at Casey Bowman, so I knew I was going to check out Hard Target 2 the day it was released. But wait there’s more… Robert Knepper is going to portray the villain! I’ve been a fan of Knepper’s since his days as the Wild Thing, so now I am really intrigued about Hard Target 2 and I immediately started counting down to the release of the movie and now the wait is over…
- The Set Up: Scott Adkins plays MMA fighter “The Jailor” Wes Baylor. Baylor and fellow MMA fighter and best friend, Jonny Sutherland, agree to a big money match with the winner getting a title shot. Unfortunately only one of them makes it out of that match alive. Jonny’s in-ring death haunts Wes, who is forced out of the sanctioned mixed martial arts world and into the world of underground fighting in Bangkok. It is there that he is approached by Jonah Aldrich (Robert Knepper). Aldrich claims to be a fight promoter and he offers Baylor a unique opportunity to fight in Myanmar. The payoff of $500,000 would mean Wes would never have to fight another day in his life.
- This Is No Fight: The fight that Aldrich has invited Baylor to participate in, is at best a fight for Baylor’s life, is in actuality a hunt and Baylor will be the hunted. The movie gives us a great introduction to the hunters… there’s Esparto, a bullfighter from Spain. There’s the father and son duo of Jacob and Tobias Zimling. Jacob, a proud Texan is hoping this trip makes a man out of Tobias, who really doesn’t seem to have the stomach for this sort of thing. Then there’s the video game mogul Landon Marshall, who has money to burn and is looking for inspiration for his next first person shooter game. Maduka is a little late for the introductions, but from what I gathered, he is a big game hunter who enjoys some adult beverages. And last but not least, the character that I think everyone will be talking about after seeing the movie, Sofia (Rhona Mitra). Sofia has some severe daddy issues and a insatiable blood lust.
- The Hunt: Baylor is given a bag with $500,000 worth of rubies in it, an empty water bottle and a two minute head start. In order for him to survive this hunt, Baylor has to make it through the jungle and across the border to Thailand. Meanwhile, the hunters have an entire arsenal of weapons to choose from. They eventually get all terrain vehicles and motorcycles, so they aren’t trudging through the jungle like Wes. And they have the tracking “expertise” of Aldrich and Aldrich’s demented right hand man, Madden… Wes is not totally on his own in this deadly game. He bumps into a woman named Tha (and her elephants). Tha (Ann Truong) is a native of the area that has no love for Aldrich’s hunt. The hunt has forced her and her people out of their village and is the reason her brother Win has gone missing. Baylor is reluctant to have her tag along, he doesn’t want another death on his hands after what happened to Jonny. But Tha proves to be a valuable resource and a woman who can hold her own.
- The Action: There is so much action jam packed into Hard Target 2’s 1 hour and 44 minute run time that you’ll feel like you’ve been running around the jungles of Myanmar when you are through watching. There’s the top notch hand to hand combat sequences you’d expect from a Scott Adkins film. Wes Baylor is dodging bullets and arrows at every turn. There’s even a boat chase! I do want to point out that the double kick Adkins does to take out two maniacal motorcyclists was an absolute thing of beauty! If you crave action, you will get your money’s worth and then some with Hard Target 2.
Scott Adkins love and dedication for the action genre is on full display in Hard Target 2. And as a fan of Adkins it was nice to see him in a movie that felt much bigger than a direct to video release. Hard Target 2 felt like a major motion picture. Part of that big time feel is thanks to the work that went on behind the camera, the other the level of performances by the actors. The way the Wes Baylor character developed over the course of the movie allowed Adkins to show a little more depth than we often get to see from our action heroes. I also want to point out the superb performance by Robert Knepper as the “over theatrical” villain, Jonah Aldrich. I would rank Knepper’s Aldrich at the top of the list if I was ranking Adkins’ foes.
Now before I wrap this review up, I think we have time for a few bonus Bullet Points…
- When The Doves Cry: There are two shots in Hard Target 2 that feature doves. I couldn’t help but think the doves were an homage to John Woo, who directed the 1993 original.
- Memorable Quote: “What the hell is wrong with you lady?” Wes Baylor asked the question that the audience was thinking as he tangled with the beautiful but deadly Sofia.
- Familiar Face: The General of the Myanmar army that is in the pocket of Aldrich, was played by Sahajak Boonthanakit. Sahajak also appeared in 2 Guns: Zero Tolerance and Never Back Down: No Surrender.
- Blu-ray Bonus Features: The Blu-ray release of Hard Target 2 features commentary with Director Roel Reiné and Stars Scott Adkins and Robert Knepper. There’s also deleted scenes and a couple of behind the scenes features too. If you are an action fan, adding this Blu-ray to your collection is a no brainer!