In 1993, John Woo began production on his first Hollywood film starring Jean Claude Van Damme called Hard Target. This film was yet another rehash of The Most Dangerous Game, this time addition came before a dread-locked Ice T rocked the story (Surviving the Game), which we are all heartbroken about the decision to exclude a Rastafarian Van Damme. A screening of this film debuted for a single audience which featured an extra 20 minutes that was cut off of the theatrical and DVD release. Today, the workprint is near impossible to find except via torrents and bootlegs.
The differences are many and small, some ranging from large to hardly noticeable. The most prominent features are a love scene and extreme gun play. Many more bullets are fired and the death toll is greater. The vintage feel of a Woo film is restored and it showcases many wounds including a man getting shot 29 times with an upside down Beretta.
Various angles and little scenes were clipped but I read that the real fear came from a NC-17 rating which I couldn't see happening, although the ear removal scene (ode to Tarantino) might have pissed some people off. Studio exec's told Woo that he cannot kill seven henchmen in one scene. Such censorship obviously led to a lackluster vision in which the director probably regrets not challenging the system at that time.
The source copy of this has a time stamp which tends to bother me until I forget it's there and the quality is almost horrid. Although I'd rather absorb the director's vision of a hyper-violent Cajun vigilante so I much prefer the workprint. Now onto the actual film - Hard Target is an American Hong Kong action film. While Woo makes poetry with absurd violence, Hard Target is one of his lesser works but it still stands strong.
Several scenes kill the stern visage set on by Van Damme's face such as the infamous snake punch scene in which he knocks a snake out cold with a swift fist in the kisser. Hard Target features some very enjoyable scenes of extreme disregard towards shop windows and the human life.
Led by Lance Henriksen and Imhotep, the villains create a daunting atmosphere led on by the stark fear in their victims eyes. Exploiting veterans has been going on since the dawn of Vietnam and it is just as sad to see scum like these torture these people. I'd like to see an alternate reality of this film in which Henriksen employs a lonely John Rambo to be his prey. Oh how sweet the suffering would be.