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Hard Target is a 1993 American action film directed by Hong Kong film director John Woo in his American debut. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Chance Boudreaux, an out-of-work Cajun merchant seaman who saves a young woman, named 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 (Lance Henriksen) who hunts homeless men as a form of recreation. The screenplay was written by Chuck Pfarrer and is based on the 1932 film adaptation of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game”.
Hard Target was Woo’s first American film and was also the first major Hollywood film made by a Chinese director. Universal Pictures was nervous about 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 with which he was not interested. 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’s 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, Woo had trouble with the Motion Picture Association of America to secure the R rating that Universal 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 mixed reviews from film critics
Directed by John Woo
Produced by James Jacks
Written by Chuck Pfarrer
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Russell Carpenter
Edited by Bob Murawski
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date August 20, 1993 (United States)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States