Hard Target 2 (2016): Action Without the Woo (Review)

Scott Adkins in Hard Target 2

Hard Target 2 is a decent enough re-imagining of the John Woo/Jean-Claude Van Damme 1993 original. Somewhat fittingly, this stars Brit actor Scott Adkins, who works quite often with Van Damme.

Dutch director Roel Reiné, who specializes in helming films that are straight-to-video sequels, puts Adkins through his paces.  Robert Knepper is the Lance Henriksen character this time around and the film is set in Southeast Asia rather than New Orleans. 

Reiné throws a number of John Woo trademarks into  Hard Target 2. The doves, a villain uses two handguns, there is plenty of slow motion shots and a typical Woo “Mexican standoff” moment. And the climax of the film takes place near a large body of water…a river.

Hard Target 2 starts out in Las Vegas where Wes “The Jailer” Baylor (Adkins) inadvertently kills his best friend in a scheduled fight.  The distraught fighter ends up in Bangkok and is bare knuckle fighting for small change.

He is offered a chance to collect some a big payout from Aldrich (Knepper) and Baylor accepts the deal.  Once he arrives however, the fighter learns that it is not a fight at all. He is to be the target of a manhunt.

If he survives, Baylor will collect a lot of money but the odds are stacked against him.

A group of rich hunters  have paid for the privilege of hunting human prey.  One of these killers is Rhona Mitra (A personal favorite since Doomsday.) who could have used a lot more screen time. For a change Mitra played a baddie and, as usual, she did it well.

The film is entertaining in a sort of ‘B’ action film way.  There are plenty of fights, and even a gun battle later on.  Adkins does well in the lead role and makes a convincing stoic hero.  Knepper makes a good villain and is just evil enough to make an impression.

Reiné has put together a solid follow up to the original Woo film.  There are more than enough slow motion shots to satisfy the most ardent John Woo fan.  He also uses doves to indicate who the good guy is.

Hard Target 2 moves at a rapid clip and the action never really slows down. It is a “popcorn and soda” film meant to be enjoyed for its combative nature and the white hat versus black hat theme.

Like most ‘B’ movies the acting is a little uneven, although this may be down to the characters themselves as they are written rather than any fault of the actors themselves.  Over all though, the bad guys are really bad. It is hard to be too judgmental about villains that deserve their fates.

The film was obviously shot on location in Thailand. The jungle looks fantastically lush and forbidding as Baylor and Tha (Ann Truong) struggle to survive the hunters.

There may be nothing new here but the story gives the audience clear-cut divisions of good and evil.  It lacks the first film’s panache and the change of locale alters the message but overall everything works.

Hard Target 2 is a solid 3 star film.  It delivers a good amount of action and Adkins does a sterling job at being the hunted hero.  The action film does what it says on the label, but without the Woo. The movie is streaming on Netflix at the moment. Grab some popcorn and a soda pop and enjoy 104  minutes of escapism.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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