Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Hard Way (2019)

Director: Keoni Waxman
Notable Cast: Michael Jai White, Luke Goss, Randy Couture, Madalina Anea, Grant Campbell, George Remes, Ovidiu Niculescu, Andreea Diac, Michaela Holla

In a strange way, I felt a lot of hype for The Hard Way. Weird, huh? It’s a straight to home video (Netflix this time around!) action film with a very limited budget, a generic plot, and almost no marketing behind it. There are two things that intrigued me. Firstly, the cast is stellar for low budget action fans. Having Michael Jai White team up with Luke Goss is gold in terms of second tier action. Both of these guys deserve their own A-list franchises, but until that happens, we have to appreciate their screen stealing abilities in films like The Hard Way. Secondly, the film is directed by Keoni Waxman. If you look through some of my previous reviews for films from this director, you will see that I often give him the benefit of the doubt for making watchable films around all of the issues of having Steven Seagal as a lead. This is his first action film without Aikido Dracula in like a decade. That’s also exciting.

Fortunately, despite the obvious flaws of its script and some perplexingly strange narrative choices, The Hard Way does entertain on a high level. Like many of the other films of the ilk, it’s made for a specific audience. It’s made for an audience that is willing to forgive the obvious limited budget constraints, broadly painted and cliché characters, and occasionally eye rolling choices of the script. Those are things that can cripple the film, particularly as it tries to create an Eastern European conspiracy that feels both forced and obvious at the same time as Michael Jai White’s character Payne stumbles into it while investigating his brother’s death. It even tries to create suspense by keeping the main villain’s identity a secret, but it’s so obvious it hurts. Most of the secondary cast is pretty thin too as the film attempts to layer the characters with backstory that isn’t sold by the script or chemistry. This is all wrapped in a film that is a bit too cheesy for its own good that makes some strange choices as it goes.

However, The Hard Way does have some great things going for it to keep it moving. Mainly because it has Michael Jai White and Luke Goss. Both of these gentlemen bring a heart, humor, and hurt to the film. It’s not like the film gives them a lot of emotional depth as characters in the script. Keoni Waxman has never been the kind of director to dwell on character arcs as much as being a workman director delivering a consumable and entertaining product, but there are moments where one can see that it’s the main cast that are definitely the hinge on why anything in The Hard Way works. Together they sport great brotherly chemistry, Michael Jai White gets to deliver some fantastic action one liners with the gusto he’s known for, and they both deliver on the action sequences. Some of the action is a bit over edited for my tastes, but knowing that it’s made on the cheap makes some of it forgivable. Most of the action is hand to hand combat, my favorite kind, and the two heroes are very adapted at handling their own in those sequences and give it some gravitas. Action fans who enjoy these lower budget films will not be disappointed here.

The Hard Way is not a film for the more discerning and classic cinephile. It’s made for fans. Keoni Waxman remains a stalwart of the genre, delivering consumable and entertaining products of this level again and again. The true reason to see this film is seeing the two leads interact and get their own vehicle together. They ground the film and deliver on the hype of seeing them together, delivering on the action and chemistry. If anything, The Hard Way deserves to be franchised because the White/Goss combination proves to be incredibly effective. Does it live up to the hype, I had? Mostly. For fans though, there is a lot of enjoy with the film even with the flaws.

*Side note: Why the hell would Netflix make the poster look like a Hallmark Christmas special? Who in the world thought that was a good idea?

Written By Matt Reifschneider

No comments:

Post a Comment