Hard Target is a 1993 action film starring Jean Claude van Damme, Lance Henriksen, Arnold Vosloo, Yancy Butler, and Wilford Brimley. It was the first American film directed by acclaimed Hong Kong action director John Woo. Sam Raimi was an executive producer.
Douglas Binder (Chuck Pfarrer, the film's screenwriter) flees through the wet, empty streets of New Orleans, hunted by Emil Fouchon's (Lance Henriksen) professional mercenary group, which includes Stephan (Sven-Ole Thorsen) and Peterson (Jules Sylvester). Just as he reaches the docks by the river, he is shot and killed by Mr. Lopaki, who has paid $500,000 for the hunting opportunity. Pik van Cleef (Arnold Vosloo) leans over the deceased Binder and slices off his belt. The next day Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) drives into New Orleans to search for her estranged father. She enters a diner to make change, not noticing Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a street dweller lording over a bowl of gumbo. Outside, as she is attacked by a group of thugs, Chance appears and defeats the group with his martial arts proficiency before skulking away. The next day, Natasha finds Chance at the local docks and offers to hire him as her guide and bodyguard during her search. Chance, currently waiting for employment aboard a ship, declines her offer as his name is called. As Natasha leaves, Chance, now informed that his outstanding debts make him ineligible for work, catches up with Natasha and agrees to work for her for several days to earn the money he needs. Meanwhile, Chance's homeless friend Elijah Roper is also hunted and killed by Fouchon's hunting party after trying to get help from a pedestrian (Ted Raimi) to no avail.
Through their investigation Natasha discovers that her father was part of the local homeless community and worked several times for Randal, a seedy recruiter. At his disheveled, messy office, Randal appears nervous and intentionally vague during Natasha's interrogation, cut short by a leering Van Cleef watching them menacingly from a nearby door. Natasha and Chance leave the building and are approached by a New Orleans detective who tells Natasha they have found her father, whose charred body was discovered in a derelict house. Despite Binder's death being ruled accidental, Chance searches the smoldering ruins of the house and discovers Binder's dog tag, which has been pierced by a projectile. Moments later, Van Cleef's thugs ambush Chance, warning him before beating him unconscious. Back at the police station, Chance reveals his new piece of evidence and murder theory, prompting the investigating officer, Mitchell (Kasi Lemmons) to order a new autopsy.
Van Cleef and Fouchon decide to relocate their hunting business and begin eliminating loose ends, including Randal, whom they murder outside his office. Mitchell, Nat and Chance arrive moments later and are ambushed by Van Cleef and several of his men. During the shootout Mitchell is shot and killed, while Chance and Nat leading Van Cleef's men on a high speed chase onto a freeway overpass, escaping by leaping onto a passing freight train. As Fouchon and Van Cleef assemble their mercenary team, Chance leads Natasha to his uncle Douvee's (Wilford Brimley) house deep in the bayou. After healing and rearming, Chance volunteers to lead Fouchon's death squad to the Mardi Gras graveyard while Douvee and Natasha escape to find help. Despite the danger, Natasha rides to the graveyard to find Chance, with Douvee reluctantly following. In the graveyard, Chance gradually picks off each gunman, including Van Cleef. In the climactic battle, Fouchon holds Natasha hostage before trying to kill Chance, who charges in and Fouchon with a flurry of blows before dropping a live grenade down his pants. The grenade detonates, a cauldron of fire consuming the last of Fouchon and his hunting business. Finally safe, Chance, Natasha and Douvee leave the fiery graveyard behind them.
Chinese director rues lack of control over 'Hard Target' filming. (Originated from Knight-Ridder Newspapers)
Aug 23, 1993; NEW YORK _ In New Orleans last March, shooting his very first American movie, John Woo lost it. Exploded. Detonated. You'd think...