For 90s action stars the drawcard on the poster or VHS cover wasn’t the film’s title or the critic’s quote. It was the name above them, and for the superstars like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, just the surname.
I don’t think Steven Seagal quite managed the one name thing (and a quick google search confirms exactly that), but for ten years or so it didn’t matter what the film was called or what it was about, there would be a buyer for his product. Hence ‘Marked for Death’, ‘Out for Justice’, ‘On Deadly Ground’, ‘Above the Law’ and ‘Oil the Ponytail’ – and I only made one of those up. And for the record I’d have watched that too if it were real.
Amazingly given my teenageness in the late 80s early 90s, Hard to Kill eluded me for a solid quarter century. I beg for forgiveness to one of the confusing mess of deities Seagal seems to worship, as I confused it with the 37 other tri-worded titles in his *COUGH* CV, but in reality I have no excuse. I let myself, my hormones, and everybody’s favourite whispering Italian-American-Asian down.
Seagal plays named Mason Storm, a well meaning cop; but ultimately a shitty one. Take for example the opening scene where his clumsiness alerts the criminals that he is spying on to his presence. Or later the rookie mistake that fools him into thinking that bad guys can’t eavesdrop on private conversations – even ones where you say “this is private” and stuff. Worse still how about the fact that not once, but twice, large numbers of heavily armed bad guys manage to sneak into his residences in order to attack him. After the first time you would think an alarm system might be in order. Or maybe deadlocks. Cans tied to pieces of string!?!
Do these sound like the mistakes a good cop would make?
In any case some of these mistakes culminate in especially naughty cops gatecrashing the Storm residence to perforate Storm and his young family with ever so many bullets. But Storm is Difficult to Extinguish, or something similar, leading to a seven year snooze-coma, during which he grows a bushy fake beard. Almost as if to signify the passage of time…
Storm is… was a devoted family man. He awakens with nightmares of the gunning down of his family – astonishingly even the bits that happened after he was already shot and left for dead – and gets to mourning his lost wife and son. That is until the shapely nurse Kelly Le Brock and her big 80s hair; who has already made some suggestive comments over his prone and catatonic body, pops up and offers an impromptu taxi service. He accepts, and as soon as he is able and she appears in a tight dress, he puts his eyebrows at ease, the universal Seagal sign that he will soon accept congress. Then the saxophone music starts, LeBrock holds her breath, and we all know what happens next.
Look this is an early Seagal movie. Meaning like the Van Damme era (and more recently, Statham) you take the good with the bad. Hard to Kill has a lot of bad actually even by Seagal standards, with the various criminals lifting their dialogue from McBain (actually more McGarnagle, but everyone knows McBain better) from The Simpsons, and Seagal spouting some of the most god-awful menacing lines in bad action history; “You can take that to the bank. The BLOOD bank.”
Seagal and LeBrock have zero chemistry and even less acting ability. Seagal’s career being based upon his flailing intercept and limb snapping combat style and LeBrock’s being her ability to fit more into the top third of an outfit than in the other two thirds combined, but she pouts while he glowers and for the most part things go well enough to be endured.
Seagal’s career pretty much died when he consented to have his character killed off in Executive Decision and it’s been on ‘name recognition direct to DVD life support’ ever since. Hard to Kill isn’t as god-awful as any of the dreck from the last 15 years, but when compared to Marked for Death and Out for Justice it might be better dubbed Hard to Recommend.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. Maybe Oil the Ponytail would have been a better option?