Judge David Johnson is hard to like.
"We're going to win. You know why? Superior attitude. Superior state of mind."
Steven Seagal's sophomore effort has him playing an unbeatable bad-ass who smirks a lot, condescends to his opponents, and consistently eludes even the flimsiest of attacks from his adversaries. So it's like all his other movies.
Facts of the Case
Mason Storm (Seagal) is an LA detective, and his real name is Mason Storm. One night Mason Storm caught a crooked politician engaging in some illegal behavior, activity that no one despises more than a certain LA detective by the name of Mason Storm. His crack detecting comes at a cost, however, when the bad guy dispatches his henchmen to Mason Storm's house to kill Mason Storm's wife and shoot Mason Storm all up in his Mason Storm torso.
Mason Storm is wounded so badly he enters a coma. After seven years, he wakes up (as only Mason Storm can do), starts training, ties his Mason Storm-like ponytail taut, and embarks on a quest for blood vengeance that would make even Mason Storm proud.
Hard to Kill…I had fonder memories of you. Years ago, when I first laid eyes on Seagal's revenge opus, I was impressed with his limb-breaking, trash-talking, and pool-cue-impaling. That wonder has abated significantly now that a) I've seen enough Seagal movies for two lifetimes, and b) gritty, grounded Hollywood action movies have long been put to shame by the insanity from places like Indonesia and Thailand, which apparently have very lax waiver laws for stunt men.
This is a dull film. The revenge action doesn't really kick in until the 50-minute mark, with the only mayhem prior to that comprised of Seagal beating the hell out of some hapless convenience store robbers (after he just stands and watches the clerk get blown away) and the slowest hospital foot race ever filmed. Until our hero finally gets the atrophy worked out of his muscles and sharpens his martial artistry (by apparently sticking lit cigarette butts all over his body), it's a slog.
Things pick up a little bit from there, but only a little bit. Fight scenes are scattered and (like all Seagal throwdowns) tedious and one-sided. He took exactly one punch the whole runtime. And while I have no doubt his Aikido skills are impressive in the real world and can be used with lethal precision to remove my colon, the simple truth is the discipline just sucks on-screen. A few broken limbs can't compensate to scene after scene of what essentially amounts to "shoving." You know it's true.
As for Seagal himself, he's essentially serving up the same protagonist we've seen in a multitude of subsequent films. Dour, super-serious, self-oblivious, and surprisingly callous to the collateral damage that happens around him. Like that scene where the affable clerk gets blown away—a few minutes later, Mason Storm is joking around with the cops, even as the ambulance departs with the innocent victim's bullet-ridden corpse presumably in tow.
If you've been anticipating Hard to Kill in HD for some time, I have some bad news for you: the disc is mediocre. The 1.85:1/1080p transfer represents a marginal upgrade, but its visual pop is nowhere near revelatory. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is clean and active, belching forth the prime '90s action synth score. No extras is a chop to the throat.
Like its headliner, Hard to Kill has not aged well.
Hard to watch.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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