Hard Target (1993)

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Hard Target is a 1993 American action film directed by Hong Kong film director John Woo in his U.S. 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. They soon learn that Binder's father has died at the hands of hunt organisers Emil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) and Pik van Cleef (Arnold Vosloo), ruthless businessmen who arrange the hunting of homeless men as a form of recreational sport. The screenplay was written by Pfarrer and is based on the 1932 film adaptation of Richard Connell's 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game". It is the first film in the Hard Target franchise.

Hard Target was Woo's first U.S. 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 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 Van Damme star. Woo got along with Van Damme during filming and raised the amount of action in the film as he knew that the actor 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 received mixed reviews from film critics but was a financial success. The film is considered a cult film among fans especially for the action scenes.

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