Two years after his explosive debut with “Above The Law” Steven Seagal returned to the cinema screen with a ponytail and an even bigger bang in which his principal character well lived up to the film’s title.
Seagal is back, this time as unstoppable cop Mason Storm with revenge on his mind, supersizing the tough guy Mifune-esque persona and strong presence that made him an instant star. Helping him on his mission of justice is Seagal’s then wife Kelly LeBrock (“Weird Science”, “Lady in Red”), as Andy Stewart, the nurse who cared for Storm during his coma and has something of a crush on him but proves to be a useful ally into the bargain.
The late Frederick Coffin (“Deadly Pursuit”) is Internal Affairs Lieutenant O’Malley and friend of Storm who not only provides assistance but also some welcoming news.
William Sadler (“Die Hard 2”) is the corrupt Senator Vernon Trent. Despite having no action scenes to speak of, Sadler conveys Trent’s sinister character effectively, one whose debonair public persona masks a cold-hearted individual focussed only on his political ambitions.
LA cop Mason Storm awakes from a seven year coma having survived an assassination attempt by corrupt cops in his own precinct, and seeks revenge on those who murdered his family.
Steven McKay’s script goes to great pains to illustrate how much Storm is hard to kill, from self-healing through training, acupuncture and meditation, to unleashing brutal hell on his killers. Renowned martial artist and stuntman Jeff Imada takes over fight choreography duties with a minimal but noteworthy inclusion of Aikido. After employing some familiar moves in the liquor store robbery scene, Seagal’s style takes on the sort of close quarter combat reminiscent of Mick Gould’s Nagsu Do. It is however a style that suits Storm’s character – that of an unstoppable super human wrecking machine.
The action is very much the centrepiece of the film, and moves along at an aggressive pace. There are pauses to allow some peeking into Storm’s character development such as the dilemma of his romance with Nurse Andy whilst still mourning his murdered wife, and a touching reunion with friend O’Malley. These are quickly dealt with to make way for the unrelenting Mason Storm; the one man army who takes down a squad of hitman equipped with only a Beretta and some bone crunching (and bone breaking) martial arts manoeuvres.
At times Storm’s invincibility feels over the top but no less entertaining. Whether it’s kicking a man through a glass display to escape a trap or breaking different bones from fingers to the necks of his assailants, this is action cinema nicely executed by Seagal whilst delivering those iconic witty one liners with comic timing.
This, combined with shoot outs and car chases courtesy of stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker (“Roadhouse”, “Lethal Weapon 2”) amp up the excitement level and leave you wanting more.
“Hard to Kill” is a quintessential action flick. The plot holds just enough interest to keep from hitting the fast forward button and there is a decent underlying theme of courage and honour. In reality though those themes merely serve to keep the action cruising along with pretty solid performances from all the key cast which altogether bolster Seagal’s action star status.
- Craig R Baxley was originally asked to direct, instead he went to helm “Dark Angel” starring Dolph Lundgren and Matthias Hues.
- The ranch to which Andy Stewart spirits Storm away to hide from his assassins was also used in “The Golden Child”.
- Branscombe Richmond (Max Quentero) goes on to play bounty hunter Bobby Sixkiller opposite cop on the run Lorenzo Lamas in “Renegade”.