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THE HARD WAY

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday,Dec. 4, 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The art/classic-film label Kino Lorber has picked up a couple of Michael J. Fox films for Blu-ray release, perhaps to cash in on Fox being in the press recently to promote his latest memoir. I enjoyed ‘The Hard Way’ for what it is, a genre piece brightened by two charismatic stars, Fox and James Woods. And with the many, many cop movies/TV shows that followed, its gags about the tropes in such film still resonate. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 8, 1991.

 

Despite more thoughtful pictures like "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" and "Saturday Night Fever" under his belt, director John Badham has made his career with high-energy action pictures based on predictable scripts that could go either way — good or bad.

 

And some of them are bad indeed — last year's "Bird on a Wire," for example. Others, like "WarGames," "Blue Thunder" and especially "Stakeout" are better than they have any right to be.

 

Once again, Badham has come together with a workable combination of stars — Michael J. Fox and James Woods — a likable, if not particularly original premise, and managed to make a fast-paced movie that is equal parts laughs and thrills.

 

        

 

    James Woods, left, Michael J. Fox, 'The Hard Way' (1991)

 

So it's not the least bit believable — who cares? Just turn off your brain and enjoy.

 

Fox plays a spoiled movie star who makes light "Indiana Jones"-type adventures. But, of course, he wants to be taken seriously so he is trying to land a role in a tough cop picture.

 

To prove to the studios he can handle it Fox finagles his way into the life of a New York cop (Woods) so he can follow him around and learn what it's like. Woods, naturally, hates the idea — especially when Fox reveals that he plans to not only work with him but also to live with him.

 

Woods has been pursuing a serial killer (gleefully played by Stephen Lang) and finds himself taken off the case — but if you think he's not going to track down that killer anyway you haven't been to a cop movie in 30 years.

 

        

 

Some of this is wildly ludicrous but much of it is funny and exciting, thanks largely to the stars and Badham's keep-it-moving directing style.

 

Fox is obviously having the time of his life making fun of his own image and Hollywood in general. And Woods, though his role is very similar to many he's played before, seems to be enjoying the chance to poke holes in movie stereotypes by lobbing one-liners at Fox's character.

 

Badham keeps things consistently faster and funnier than he did with "Bird on a Wire." There are a few sloppy editing moments here but nothing that slows down the momentum, one of the problems the lethargic "Bird on a Wire" had.

 

"The Hard Way" is rated R for violence and profanity, which is considerable but not as much as most R-rated action-thrillers these days. There is also a scene with some drunks in a pizza parlor who moon the next table.