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Hard Target is a 1993 American action film directed by Chinese director John Woo. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Chance Boudreaux, an out of work Cajun merchant seaman who saves the young woman Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) from a gang of thugs in New Orleans. Chance learns that Binder is searching for her missing father (Chuck Pfarrer), and agrees to aid Binder in her search. Boudreaux and Binder soon learn that Binder’s father has died at the hands of wealthy sportsman Emil Fouchon who hunts homeless men as a form of recreation.
Directed by John Woo
Produced by James Jacks
Written by Chuck Pfarrer
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Russell Carpenter
Editing by Bob Murawski
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) United States:
August 20, 1993 (1993-08-20)
Running time 97 min.
Country United States
Hard Target was the John Woo’s first American film and was also the first film made in Hollywood by a Chinese director. Universal Pictures was nervous on having Woo direct a feature, and sent in director Sam Raimi to look over the film’s production and to take Woo’s place as director if he were to fail. Woo went through several scripts finding mostly martial arts films which he wasn’t interested in. After deciding on Chuck Pfarrer’s script for Hard Target, Woo wanted to have actor Kurt Russell in the lead role but found Russell too busy with other projects. Woo then went with Universal Studios initial choice of having Jean-Claude Van Damme star. Woo got along with Van Damme during filming and raised the amount of action in the film as he knew that Van Damme was up for it.
After 65 days of filming in New Orleans, John Woo had trouble with the Motion Picture Association of America to secure the R rating that Universal Pictures wanted. Woo made dozens of cuts to the film until the MPAA allowed it an R rating. On its initial release, Hard Target was a financial success but received poor reviews film critics. Critics found Hard Target to have good action scenes but noted the weak script and poor quality acting from Jean-Claude Van Damme.