Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Hard To Kill.”
The Movie: “Hard to Kill”
Starring: Steven Seagal, Kelly LeBrock, William Sadler
Director: Bruce Malmuth
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Left for dead with his wife killed in their house, L.A. Detective Mason Storm will have to make a quick recovery, expose those behind the murder and take revenge.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 36 percent
Brown: The JOE-DOWN returned to its bread and butter last week with some ‘90s action in “The Matrix.”
But with all that heady philosophy and computer jargon, it didn’t quite feel like a true return to form.
So when you want mind-numbing ‘90s action with a lead that’s as interesting as a head of cauliflower, there’s only one man for the job.
Enter: Steven Seagal in “Hard to Kill.”
Frankly, we’ve done readers of this blog a disservice by doing only one other Seagal movie with “Under Siege.”
Of course, part of the reason we haven’t done that is because that requires us to watch Steven Seagal. And that’s… challenging.
But after watching “Hard to Kill,” this ought to be a fun one. And you can take that to the bank.
Froemming, give us your first thoughts while I try to grow my finest coma beard.
Froemming: I’d rather be watching the Academy Awards…
I actually have a story about this movie. Well, not so much a story as a weird memory. When I was a little kid, my brother had the movie poster of this on his bedroom wall. Which was weird because 1. It was not a huge movie people loved. And 2. I am not sure he even saw it. But alas, I saw this poster in my childhood home growing up and in my 40 years on this crazy planet, I never once asked my brother why in the hell he had this poster.
And, frankly, I don’t want to know.
Anyway, I can finally say I have seen “Hard To Kill,” which about a half hour in, I was wondering if I accidentally rented “Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning” or the gang’s “Lethal Weapon 5,” what with every bad trope of 80s action movies being the only thing that I can really remember of this thing.
Anyway, as I ponder this movie’s obsession with the Oscars, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: We begin in 1983 in a foggy industrial park that I think only exists in action movie sets.
As a pack of cars gather, a lumbering man named Mason Storm enters the movie …
Yeah. Steven Seagal’s character is named (REDACTED) Mason Storm. That would be up there with Cypher Raige in “After Earth” for the most preposterous name in action movie history if Froemming and I didn’t have a mutual friend with the last name Storm.
Anyways, Mason Storm … …
OK. I’m done poking fun at the name. For now.
Anyways, Mason Storm comes trudging in with a camera in his hand like Charlie Kelly. And I absolutely believe that Mason Storm would also forget to put tape in the camera.
So apparently Mason Storm is a cop? … Are giant-ass camcorders standard police issue? Is this things that cops do? Between this and his Oscars digs later, I thought he was just a cameraman at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Froemming: I was more shocked that he was talking to himself — loudly — while he was supposed to be hiding. I work nights. Streets at night are pretty damn quiet. You can hear a pin drop. So his color commentary on this mysterious meeting would absolutely have been picked up by this gaggle of hired goons. Plus, that huge ass camera and whatnot.
Brown: There is nothing stealthy about Steven Seagal. He’s 6-foot-4 with a ponytail. He’s not fleet-footed. Hell, his fight scenes have him barely moving. He is not the ideal person for this venture.
But sure enough, Mason Storm is there picking up this meeting where some mob guys (I think?) are talking to someone about whacking a senator. If the gangsters do it, they’ll have political support from this low-level politician. And, because this man is trying SO hard to make this a catchphrase, he tells the mob “You can take that to the bank.”
It’d be funny if “Make America Great Again” didn’t help a steak salesman get elected to the highest office in the land.
Froemming: Plus, the mafia is usually more subtle with their ties to political power.
Well, maybe not.
Anyway, they hear Mason Storm kick a can or something, not him talking loudly to himself like an asshole, and send a goon to check it out.
And here Mason just beats the bejesus out of the goon. Slowly. Seagal moves very, very slowly I have noticed in his movies.
Then he runs away, hops in his car as this crew of street power and political power give chase. And he heads to…a liquor store for champagne. But this is a scummy one. The kind of liquor store that in no way sells champagne. Maybe Miller High Life, the champagne of beers, but not the real stuff.
Brown: Not only does he buy champagne, he buys a stuffed monkey. At the liquor store. A. What liquor store sells plush animals? B. What’s your loved one to think when you tell them, “Here, I bought you a toy from the liquor store?”
Froemming: Well, it could be this situation:
Brown: Also, I wanna go back to the tape quick. … There’s no way that Mason’s video would be permissible in court, right? Yeah, he has the audio, but there is no way of telling who’s who in the video. At the end of the movie, there’s a shot where the villain can be seen in the shadows, but there’s not a chance in hell Mason’s camera was good enough to get that quality of shot that far away.
Froemming: I will let Michael Bay explain this to you:
He also calls his buddy at the station, but some dirty cops listen in, so now the bad guys know Mason Storm is about to bring a storm down upon them with his storm of video evidence! Storm!
So, you know how dirty cops are in LA, so we all know what’s next: The beginning of “Deadpool 2” basically.
Brown: Well, let’s not forget that Storm lays waste to people in the liquor store after *checks notes* letting the cashier get shot during a robbery. You’re a cop. Maybe try to stop the robbery first before you break out your lame aikido moves, Seagal.
When Storm arrives home, his wife is there waiting after she put their son Sonny to bed. Apparently, mom bribed him to go to bed with *checks notes* six cookies and a glass of orange juice? That is a disgusting combo on par with Tommy Wiseau’s half-Canadian bacon with pineapple, half-artichoke and pesto pizza from “The Room.”
Froemming: How is that kid going to sleep with that kind of sugar boost to his system?
Brown: He got that liquor store monkey from his dad. That’ll help him go to bed.
So the parents retreat to the bedroom for some coitus and get interrupted by the ending of “Scarface.”
The kid escapes, but Mr. and Mrs. Storm are riddled with bullet holes after being hit with a shotgun at close range.
Keep in mind that Mason Storm is going to survive this. After he gets put into a seven-year coma.
I like that the IMDB movie synopsis says that Mason has to make a quick recovery. Seven years is NOT quick.
But it does lead to the hardest laugh I’ve had in a long time when we see Mason Storm with Charlie Manson’s hair and beard.
Froemming: Yup, he looked like Bob Odenkirk playing Manson on “The Ben Stiller Show.”
So, a quick mention. His buddy in IA faked his death so the assemblyman and his mafia buddies and the dirty cops would not be trying to kill him for real. And, this movie taught me something wild: It was pretty damn easy for a cop to fake not only his friend’s death, but that friend’s son’s death as well. What a time to be alive, while also pretending to be dead.
So, for seven years Mason Storm — which I think is more funny of a name than Max Power — was in a coma. And his nurse turns out to be…
Brown: I thought Lisa would be doing something sexier than coma patient nurse. But hey, good on her for finding a noble profession once she got away from those pervy teenagers.
Then again, she hooks up with Steven Seagal later, so maybe this was all a mistake.
Also, I shouldn’t be the one to judge a man’s weight… but Mason Storm is too chunky for a man in a seven-year coma. But nope, still got some heft to him. And he apparently has Wolverine healing factor because it doesn’t take long for him to regain his former glory. Compare that to The Bride, who needed a lot of time just to wiggle her big toe.
With Mason Storm conscious once again, Andy (LeBrock) calls the cops with the news. Only, instead of Storm’s ally O’Malley to answer, it’s *checks notes* Walter White’s brother-in-law from “Breaking Bad,” who apparently worked in the LAPD’s internal affairs department before going to the DEA?
Froemming: Well, he also has interests in minerals as well, Brown!
Brown: Well, before you know it, an assassin who looks like a high-school shop teacher finds his way to the hospital to kill a barely functional Mason Storm.
… Until Mason Storm escapes the hospital because why the (REDACTED) not?
Froemming: Well, he can’t really move and nobody is listening to him when he says he needs to get out of there, because people are on their way to kill him.
Which means…they knew all along he wasn’t dead? Why didn’t they — over seven years — hit up every coma hospital in the LA area to find him? Why fake his death if they knew he wasn’t dead? Holy shit, this movie makes zero sense.
Anyway, some weasel-looking prick kills a few people as Mason Storm uses a broom and his hospital bed to go up and down an elevator…
Brown: Nothing says heart-stopping intensity like HOT. ELEVATOR. ACTION!
Also, shouldn’t there be an alarm system or something at this hospital?
Froemming: Not in Ronald Reagan’s and George H.W. Bush’s America, bubba.
Also, Andy pushes Mason out of the hospital, and I swear it suddenly turned into a skit on…
Brown: So Mason Storm and Andy make their escape into a house that in no way Andy could afford as a nurse. At least they had the decency to say that she was house sitting for a friend.
Seemingly safe for now, Mason Storm now puts in the hard, grueling work of rebuilding his body after nearly dying and being in a coma for seven years after an attempted gangland assassination.
… Mason Storm is back to normal after, like, two days. Thanks to our ol’ ‘80s pal: The MONTAGE!
Froemming: He also has Andy go to the Chinese district for supplies and tells her a yarn about growing up in China and it felt almost as gross as an old Calgon commercial (you can look it up). Because Western medicine didn’t help, he uses acupuncture and herbs to get better. Which, sure, why not. He also punches boards and shit to heal, too. Which I am not sure is a thing.
Brown: Seagal also runs in the montage. And I was howling in laughter because he runs just like Mose Schrute.
Also, in a scene that comes out of nowhere, Mason Storm and Andy have sex. … Or, they didn’t? I don’t know. The way they shot it, it legit could have been a dream and I’d believe you.
And after (I think) having sex with Andy, Mason Storm *checks notes* goes to his wife’s grave?
… Why? Were you trying to be like MacGruber and have sex with her ghost?
Froemming: At least we didn’t see him have sex with her bellybutton like Wiseau did in “The Room.” Also, given the ego of Seagal at this time in his career, we should be glad we didn’t see…
Brown: When Mason Storm goes back to the house, he finally puts one of the pieces together.
Waiting for Mason at the house is O’Malley. O’Malley has not only helped keep Mason’s son, Sonny safe, he still has that seven-year-old tape of incriminating evidence. And O’Malley mentions that he couldn’t find anything that helps ID the culprit. Not even any phrases.
That is, until Mason Storm remembers that one phrase: You can take that to the bank. He realizes that it was the now-Senator Vernon Trent.
That’s when Seagal drops the best line in the movie.
That scene makes me laugh so goddamn hard. He says it, then just goes back to sitting in utter silence like David Puddy. Like Homer, it was the cleverest thing he’s ever said and no one was there to hear it.
Froemming: O’Malley gets him a gun — which when you wake up from a seven year coma and have enemies all around, you need a gun. Remember that Brown, if I ever fall into a coma, when I wake up, you need to get me a gun. Preferably after you sneak up on me in a backyard with an exposition dump like in this movie.
And they set up a meeting so Mason can finally meet his son after all these years. Which is a stupid idea. Put off the reunion until after all this business with the senator and the crooked cops is taken care of.
Andy, meanwhile, met an old lady I thought was O’Malley’s mother. But he says his mom broke her neck or something which led him to leave the force because it was likely done by crooked cops. This reference and when the crooked cops are searching for Andy, they say they are looking for TWO nurses, which made no sense to me. What other nurse?
Brown: There’s a point where Andy stops at a hotel looking for a Martha. Turns out, Martha’s dead.
And I legit don’t know who Martha was or why this left Andy so shook.
Brown: Oh well. When Andy gets back, there’s a shootout at the house they’ve been staying at. There’s also a car chase where there’s bullet holes in the windshield at head level and Mason Storm and Andy are fine. If I’m to believe his fight scenes, there’s no way Mason Storm moved during those shots. He should absolutely be dead.
They trade cars with some youths, then head to the train station to meet up with Sonny, who has been taken out of school by O’Malley to *checks notes* be chased by gangsters?
Wow, BOTH Mason Storm and O’Malley are bad dads.
Froemming: I love how these gangsters are somehow less threatening than, say, the street-wise toughs in this video:
O’Malley is able to kill a few of them before his sixth gunshot to his body finally kills him. He is basically Rasputin here. Sonny, meanwhile, is being chased by a man with the ugliest mullet I have seen in some time. And Mason Storm is chasing the both of them by running on the tops of people’s cars.
Brown: O’Malley had to yell at Sonny for two straight minutes to run while he’s being gunned down like, well, like Sonny Corleone. Something tells me that Sonny Storm isn’t the brightest star in the solar system.
Froemming: I mean, look at who his father is…
This movie shows how little Mason Storm cares about other people’s property. Hell, before this he goes to his old home and finds his incriminating video in a hole in the wall. That hole has to be killing the current resident’s electric bill with their AC being sucked the hell out of that spot.
Then, when he catches up with his boy and the man with the ugly mullet, he throws this son-of-a-bitch through some poor bastard’s little eaterie. I mean, he demolishes this guy’s livelihood. Even his grill isn’t unscathed in this one-sided slobberknocker of a fight.
Hey, Mason Storm, what the hell did that guy ever do to you? Just beat the hell out of that guy on the street.
Brown: Mason Storm commits murder in front of a crowd by snapping the neck of ugly mullet man. Mason Storm is reunited with his son… then immediately drops him onto Andy as he steals a man’s van to go to Senator Trent’s house to pursue vengeance.
Also, the moment Sonny gets left with Kelly LeBrock is the day I assume Sonny’s step-mom porn fetish begins.
Brown: At Senator Trent’s palatial estate, Mason Storm is calling out to the senator as he stalks the property. He’s pretty much like Cady in the ‘90s “Cape Fear.” Frankly, this is villain behavior from Mason Storm.
Killing off Trent’s men one by one, including dudes playing pool and some corrupt cops, Mason Storm finally comes across Trent hiding in a closet. He then shoves a shotgun into the senator’s mouth, which admittingly is a gnarly visual.
As Mason Storm is telling Trent to handcuff himself, SWAT shows up. Which makes sense; Mason Storm has killed a LOT of people. Plus, after a seven-year coma, I’m pretty sure you’re not a cop anymore.
BUT, the cops say they’ve seen Mason Storm’s tape and are here to arrest Senator Trent. Because you need SWAT to arrest a politician and not the guy with a body count comparable to John Wayne Gacy?
Froemming: Well, the FBI came in full force for this chucklehead of a Batman villain:
Also, they just let Mason Storm off the hook for how many homicides? Sure, Trent is guilty as hell and will end up in a “Tales from the Crypt” movie, which is surely a hell nobody wants.
But Mason has a longer list of victims than Charles Manson, whom he was channeling in his looks earlier in the movie.
Brown: Froemming, why don’t we montage our way to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: No. Seagal has the personality of baby carrots and that drags down this whole thing. There are so many better action movies/stars in that time.
Froemming: Oh no, this was one of the worst action movies I have sat through in a long time.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: