Westlake Entertainment // 1998 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // July 27th, 2007
A Cop with a Secret. A Killer Who Knows It. The Game Is On.
With the sheer number of "serial killer versus cop" movies out there, it's hard to find one that even tries to be different instead of sticking to the same old formula. Insomnia (both versions, I suppose, though I preferred the American version) and Se7en both added something interesting to the formula. Hard, on the other hand...
Raymond Fates (Noel Palomaria) has just been promoted to the rank of detective and he's having a little trouble fitting in, especially with his hard-nosed veteran partner Ellis (Charles Lanyer, Die Hard 2). Lord only knows how things will be if they ever find out that Fates is gay.
Meanwhile, a serial killer is out there killing young gay men and he's out there indulging in the usual serial killer pastime of playing mind games with Fates. Soon, a vaguely epic showdown between Fates and the killer will take place.
Like I said, Hard tries to bring something new to the table -- a gay cop being tormented by both his sexuality and a gay serial killer -- and I won't deny that it did that. Some of the best parts of the movie center around Fates and the trouble he faces at work because of his homosexuality. Unfortunately those parts come about halfway through the movie and last for about 15 minutes total. Most of the focus was on, instead, the killer, Jack (Malcolm Moorman).
Once you shuck the plot points dealing with the difficulties a gay cop might have, you're left with a sub-par thriller with sub-par acting. Hard gets so much wrong, that it doesn't matter how fresh it's trying to be with the subject matter.
Jack steps into comic book villain territory one too many times, dancing and lunging about in the darkness while laughing maniacally. And he's not very good at what he does. He gets away with plenty of evil, but it's not because of his intelligence or his masterful ability to pick up men from street corners. It's that everyone around him has the intelligence of spackle. At one point Jack is pulled over by a police officer because his car has no plates. He also doesn't have his license. Jack also has a guy sitting next to him with a bloody nose, barely conscious and saying "Help me...help me" over and over again. The cops let Jack go with only mild suspicions that Jack might be up to something no good.
Still, just because the villain is a scenery chewing loon who has more good luck than good sense, that doesn't mean the movie is a complete loss. If the hero is compelling in some way, that could save things, right? Sadly, Fates is just kind of there, a gay cop in a world that doesn't like gay cops. His entire being is defined by the fact that he's a gay cop. Any other characterizations were apparently considered unimportant.
There's even a fairly noticeable continuity gaffe when Jack goes from shirted to topless to shirted with no explanation in one scene. Hard is either depressingly average, below average, or fumbling with the few new elements that it brings to the genre.
This is a tragedy of sorts, because it seems like the filmmakers were trying their best to try and shine some light on various issues that were close to them. But when it boils right down to it, the DVD extras are better suited to exposing prejudices in the police department than the movie itself. Both the included Q&A sessions and the commentaries give a lot of background information on not just the movie but on the political and social situation that Hard attempted to discuss.
As a political statement and an attempt to educate the public at large about such a serious social problem as homophobic attitudes within police departments, Hard is a noble, if lackluster, effort. As a thriller, it has even less to offer.
Hard is guilty of having a suggestive title and not much else of interest.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Westlake Entertainment
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Director, Producer, and Actor Commentaries
* Malcolm Moorman's Audition