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Bad Movie Tuesday: Hard Target 2 (2016), Scott Adkins’ “Surviving the Game” follow-up to Van Damme’s Hard Target (1993).

October 4, 2016

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MY CALL:  If Ice-T’s Surviving the Game (1994) and Van Damme’s Hard Target (1993) had a sweaty-muscled child, and that abtastic child was hunted for sport and could do fancy jump spin kicks—that would be this bad movie.  This was one of Adkins’ weaker movies, in my opinion—and I’m an Adkins fan in general.  But hey, I laughed a lot.  So there’s that.  MOVIES LIKE Hard Target 2Surviving the Game (1994) and Hard Target (1993) are the obvious choices—since they, in combination, are the equivalent of this week’s Bad Movie Tuesday feature.  You should also turn to other Van Damme movies, of course!  Especially Bloodsport (1988), Lionheart (1990), Timecop (1994) and The Quest (1996).  Want something a bit more “campy bad?” If that’s the case, try China O’Brien (1990), Outside the Law (2002), Night Vision (1997), Only the Strong (1993) or Mechanic: Resurrection (2016).

This completely unwarranted sequel was made by the king of unwarranted sequels!  Director Roel Reiné (The Marine 2, Death Race 2, Death Race 3: Inferno, The Scorpion King 3, 12 Rounds 2, The Man with the Iron Fists 2, The Condemned 2; any of which make for an excellent Bad Movie Tuesday) has long proven that he can take excellently entertaining flicks and make subpar sequels out of them that no one really ever expected, needed or even wanted.  He doesn’t have any decent “part ones” under his belt yet, and I’m not sure he ever will.

Decked out with crossbows and dirt bikes, a group of hunters track down their unarmed fare in this completely unwarranted and long-delayed sequel to Van Damme’s Hard Target (1993).  But since Jean-Claude Van Damme (Timecop, Bloodsport, The Expendables 2, Universal Solder: Day of Reckoning, Assassination Games) has shared the screen with Scott Adkins (Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, The Expendables 2, Universal Solder: Day of Reckoning, El Gringo, Assassination Games) several times now, it’s fair to say the torch is being passed.

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Adkins plays Wes, a mixed martial arts fighter, and his opening Vegas fight is scored and acted like it was the final fight at the end of some Rocky knockoff.  And folks, I love Scott Adkins, but let’s just be honest and say the acting is bad.  Adkins uses his most gruffly deep possible voice to sound tough and I’m not so convinced.  Thankfully his voice reverts back to normal later.

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It’s like a reverse Van Damme movie, because instead of avenging his friend (Bloodsport) or brother (Kickboxer) in the ring, he nearly kills his best friend!  Then, guilt stricken, Wes moves to Bangkok to pull a Leaving Las Vegas (1995), drinking himself into oblivion.  But apparently he mixes the liquor with his protein powder and takes swigs between sit-ups since he has been somehow maintaining his strikingly lean abs.  Oh, and did I mention he woke up hungover and sleeping among doves—yes, I said DOVES!  Does the director think he’s John Woo (Face/Off, Hard Boiled, Hard Target)?!?!?

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Adkins’ abs may be amazing, but the fight choreography is only “decent” and far below Adkins’ potential (e.g., Undisputed).  But a fight is not as good as the best martial artist—rather it is limited by the worst.  He pulls some of his trademark stunts out of his bag of tricks, including his 540 jump spinning hook kick and aerial split kick.  The stunts look great!  It’s just the exchange of techniques between fighters that is left wanting.  In Undisputed 2 (2006) he worked opposite Michael Jai White (one of the best in the business), here he faces the worst on-screen capoeirista (I think that’s what he was doing) I’ve ever seen.  What happened to the guys from The Protector (2005) and The Quest (1996), huh?  Just sad.

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His underground fighting circuit mixes Lionheart (1990) and Fighting (2009), but lacks the charm of either.  Then the slick Aldrich (Robert Knepper; R.I.P.D., Heroes, Prison Break) enters the underground fighting scene, discovers Wes’ talent, and offers Wes a solution to his recent financial hardships.  What Wes doesn’t realize is that the “fight” he agrees to turns out to be a fight for his life!

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Rhona Mitra (Doomsday, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Skinwalkers), looking AMAZING at 40 by the way, cheeses up the screen with her fair share of ill-delivered B-movie lines as well.  She joins Aldrich and four other well-equipped hunters against Wes, who learns that all he gets is a water bottle and a two-minute head start in the middle of the jungles of Myanmar.

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About now I’d like to pause and assess some additional ways that we know this is a bad movie (as if it wasn’t yet obvious):

  1. Adkins accuses an elephant of “throwing the first punch” with a straight face.Hard Target 2

  2. Firing a crossbow in slow-motion with CGI arrows doesn’t make it look any better. They seem to think it does, though.  Maybe that’s why so many action shots were also in slow-motion.  And why crossbows.  Is this because of Daryl Dixon?saxheflstill_hardtarget2-2maxresdefault

  3. Again, what’s with the doves???

  4. Aldrich pays “the Republic of Myanmar” (aka, a corrupt general) as a free pass to hunt people in the jungle. So bad!

  5. I think they only named this Hard Target 2 hoping to get some Hard Target money off Van Damme’s fanfare.

  6. When the hunters need something, Aldrich just waives his hand and it seems to appear. Guns, four-wheel drive vehicles, tracking systems, surveillance drones, motorcycles with more toys than the Batmobile… it gets annoying.7dllf8v

  7. Too many motorcycles.  Ever since Jurassic World (2015), folks don’t really seem to care about motorcycle chases through the jungle unless velociraptors are involved.  And no, there are no velociraptors in this.

  8. Rhona Mitra walking far too casually in front of an explosion. She also takes really big hits way too well…like she was the T-1000 or something. Barf!

  9. Using violence against women and rape as casually as the opportunity presents itself. Come on, now.  This isn’t the exploitation era nor is this anything of an exploitation movie.  It’s just crass.

  10. We could often see Adkins’ knee pads through his jeans. That’s just lazy.

  11. We spend too long watching Wes learn to appreciate the local culture, hearing his past and nightmares explained, and talking about getting to the Thai border. This isn’t Kickboxer (1989)… ergo, I don’t care about any of this exposition.

  12. Aldrich sips a beer while he watches his henchman fight Wes. The scenario is even more ridiculous than you’d think.  He watches Wes beat his five henchman, then he watches him crush his right-hand man… he basically gives Wes every possible opportunity to win when, in fact, Aldrich had every opportunity to eliminate his liability.hard-target-2-stills-hr-5_1050_591_81_s_c1hrdtrgt_12

  13. The ending makes no sense. Wes should have died.  This was really stupid.

But for all its faults, and they number high, this flick is not without some serious bad movie charm.  Adkins kicks Mitra through a wall and I laughed out loud, the slow-motion water fight may not have been technically impressive but it definitely brought out my inner bro, and there are also some gorgeous jungle shots.

This is clearly among Adkins’ weaker movies.  But if you go in expecting it to suck, you should get a few laughs and see a few decent stunts that may or may not make it worth it for you in the end.

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