Film Review: Hard to Kill (1990)



Steven Seagal left strong impression playing the Detective Nico Toscani in his screen debut Above the Law a.k.a. Nico. In Yugoslav video stores that impression was so strong that his next three films would be distributed under titles Nico II, Nico III and Nico IV despite not being sequels and Seagal not playing characters named Nico. In his second film, 1990 action thriller properly titled Hard to Kill, he played character with much “cooler” name Mason Storm. The beginning of the plot introduces him as LAPD detective who, while following prominent mob figures, secretly videotapes meeting between mob boss and prominent politician, in which latter who wants mob to assassinate US Senator in order to take his place. Storm isn’t sure about the identity of politician involved in conspiracy, but before he can figure it out, he becomes target of assassins alerted by corrupt policemen who secretly wiretapped him. While his wife Felicia (played by Bonnie Burroughs) and young son die, he survives, but only barely and ends in coma. His friend, Lt. Kevin O’Malley (played by Frederic Coffin), wants to protect him by declaring him dead and arranging treatment in special Los Angeles clinic under assumed name. Seven years later, while under care of nurse Andrea “Andy” Stewart (played by Kelly LeBrock), he finally wakes up, but almost immediately has to run for his life from assassins. Andy manages to provide shelter in a remote mansion she house sits and there Storm slowly recovers, contacts O’Malley and begins to realise that the politician caught on tape is powerful US Senator Vernon Trent (played by William Sadler).

Hard to Kill was commercially more successful than Above the Law, but the comparisons between two films should favour the first Nico. Unlike that film, which had solid direction by veteran Andrew Davis, interesting Chicago locations and intriguing plot based on political controversies, Hard to Kill represents generic 1980s police action film. Plot based on revenge, together with some melodramatic twists at the end, on the other hand, requires more of the resource Seagal lacks the most – acting ability. Seagal is awful in emotional scenes and film becomes watchable only when he is able to display his proper talents – martial arts. Seagal is actually so good that his character turns into unstoppable fighting machine that takes out villains with great ease. Such encounters are, quite realistically, very short and that creates problem for film makers; it is solved by employing huge number of Storm’s adversaries and, on occasions, Storm even refuses to use guns and offers his opponents hand-to-hand combat as fair fight. Director Bruce Malmuth tries to hide some of the problems of the script with very quick pace, but while this makes film run smoothly, it leaves some minor plot holes. Most of the cast tries not to act too good in order not to make Seagal look too inferior in comparison. That includes not only William Sadler as terrible chief villain, but also Kelly LeBrock, who actually wanted to retire from acting and agreed to appear in film only as a favour to Seagal, who was her husband at the time. Obligatory romantic subplot, despite the pair’s real life relationship, looks awkward, partly because it seems out of place in a story which, at least in the beginning, looks dark and tragic. Veteran character actor Frederic Coffin is the only part of the cast that gives solid performance as Storm’s guilt-stricken friend. There are some attempts of humour, mostly in forms of one-liners and double entendres, but they usually fail. Despite commercial success, Seagal wasn’t pleased with the film and later blamed Malmuth for its poor quality. In the end, Hard to Kill can be recommended only to the more devout among Seagal’s fans.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

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I remember this movie, it is one of those great movies by JCVD love it.