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.

Jarhead 3: The Siege (2016) Feels Like a CoD Movie (Review)

Charlie Weber as Albright in Jarhead 3

Jarhead 3: The Siege feels like a  CoD (Call of Duty) movie minus the first person shooter perspective.  The third in a short trio of films that started with the 2005 “biopic” Jarhead with Jake Gyllenhaal, this one leaves the subject of sniping and Desert Storm behind, as did Jarhead 2.

Set in the American Embassy  in Afghanistan Marine Corporal Evan Albright (Charlie Weber)  arrives  full of enthusiasm and an urge to excel. He manages to annoy  Gunny Raines (Scott Adkins) and Ambassador Cahill (Stephen Hogan) as well as head of security Kraus.

The Marine is keen and observant and he spies a familiar face in the crowds outside the Embassy. Evan does not follow the chain of command and his forewarning is disregarded. The building comes under siege from a known ISIS terrorist, believed to be dead from a drone attack and it is Albright who must save the day.

Directed by William Kaufman (The Hit List, Sinners and Saints) and written by Chad Law and Michael D. Weiss Jarhead 3: The Siege is pretty straight forward and does feel a lot like video game film.  (It does, in fact feel a lot like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 4 although there is  no embassy in the game…) 

There are no real “Hoorah” moments and overall the Marines are not doing this for the corp, it is about being overrun by the bad guy and trying to survive.  The embassy staff have an obligatory “spook” in the form of Brit actress Sasha Jackson  (who plays Olivia Winston).

There is one major annoyance in the film, meant as comic relief   but it is so intrusive and so manufactured that it is  more distracting and not amusing at all. The character of Blake (played by Dante Basco) is a pencil pushing member of the embassy staff who films everything for the “Embassy blog.”

Apart from being a nuisance, it is like Blake wandered onto the set from another film by mistake. Why the character is included in the movie is a mystery. His antics are not funny  and one  truly feels that Blake should have been taken out early on in the proceedings.

Another instance where the script wanders from the CoD formula is the apparent nod and wink to An Officer and a Gentleman. At one point Gunny Raines hands Albright his “marching orders” and the younger Marine tells his superior he has “no place else to go.”

For those who like action films with plenty of fire fights and terrorists being eliminated with extreme prejudice this will be a winner.  There is a subplot of CIA money being the real reason there is peace in the area and a predictable ending.

It is interesting to note that the character of Olivia Watson gathers new weapons and more ammunition throughout the running firefight. No one else does however as apparently the Marine’s have a never ending supply of ammo and guns that do not need reloading.

Despite the annoyance of Blake and the inclusion of the naughty CIA Jarhead 3: The Siege is entertaining.  Not in the sense of being intricate or making one think deep thoughts but in terms of action it is quite satisfying.

This is a 3.5 star film that could have stretched to 4 without the character of Blake. It is streaming on Netflix and worth watching. Be prepared to fight the urge to shoot the annoying arsehat with the  video camera yourself.

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