Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Hard Justice

Hard Justice (1995)

Directed by: Greg Yaitanes
Written by: Nicholas Amendolare and Chris Bold
Starring: David Bradley, Yuji Okumoto and Charles Napier

Hard Justice is a film that certainly delivers on the action front. It often seems its sole purpose is to cram in as much gun, car, bomb and martial arts violence as possible. Produced by Nu Image during their low budget glory days, Hard Justice has a much more polished look than many of their previous films, with a decent budget obviously being channelled into the several impressive action set pieces. And to be honest that’s what makes the flick so darn entertaining: its complete abandonment of plot for excessive gunfire and car flipping.

The story (an almost carbon copy of Van Damme’s Death Warrant from a few years earlier) is as basic as they come and sees David Bradley (American Ninja 3, 4 & 5. That’s right, there were five!) as ATF agent, Nick Adams, go undercover to a maximum security prison to avenge the death of his best mate, who also happened to be undercover at the same prison. Once there, he has to fight his cell mate to gain respect, avoid some slippery nonsense in the shower, entrust the help of his sexy female cop friend on the outside, settle some old scores and crack many, many (many) skulls. So, business as usual then?

Hard Justice isn’t going win any points in terms of originality, or subtly for that manner. It’s very violent, brash and downright trashy. However, director Greg Yaitanes (now working full force on CSI and its many incarnations) shows verve in the action department and keeps things moving at such a velocity, you hardly notice how absurd proceedings get (ex. the sexy lady cop friend suddenly knows how to fly a helicopter, very well. Hmmm!). Yaitanes does steal from about every John Woo movie going, but adds his own touch with some hard impact and sustained action scenes that are some of the best seen in a low budget film of this type. He book ends the film with two superb sequences that warrant a viewing by any action fan. The opener features mucho cool gunplay and about twenty cars all being thrown through the air as our hero narrowly escapes, while the climax includes a chase scene incorporating a bus, a helicopter and one hell of a death by grenade.

The acting isn’t too bad either. Support is provided by genre stalwarts Charles Napier, Vernon Wells and Jim Manici, with Napier adding the right amount of sleaze as the sadistic warden. Bonita Arden brings a little more depth to her limited screen time as the sexy female cop friend and Yuji Okumoto is always good value as the villain Bradley has a score to settle with. Bradley, himself, isn’t bad either but is much more adept at the action scenes than the dramatic ones. For every scene he is good in, there is always another scene where he either looks confused, constipated, crazy or all three. There are times when he looks as if he doesn’t know where is or what is going, often staring out into nowhere. But he certainly makes up for this in the action scenes. This was probably his biggest budget, and certainly his best film and Bradley cuts an imposing figure in all the fight and chase sequences.

Hard Justice may be your typical mid nineties straight-to-video action film, but it is one of the best. Yaitanes makes the film his own, adding a bit of style, a dash of inventiveness and a shed load of action. It is quite a rare film so if you can track down a copy, then do, as Hard Justice is a solid hour and half of stunt filled entertainment.

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