The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hard Justice (1995)

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With my recent push to get more of the gems from the late 80s and early 90s, it was probably only a matter of time before I made this one happen. This was another of those films that I saw when I was in high school, forgot about, and was reminded of by some of my readers. Then I rent it, see it again, and think "how did I forget this?"

Hard Justice has David Bradley as an ATF agent that goes undercover in a jail to find out what happened to his friend, who was murdered. This of course comes after an explosion laden gunfight in a waterfront warehouse. As the film deteriorates into the usual action prison film where everyone's in on it and shanks come from all sides, Bradley discovers who he can trust, who sucks, and how many times he can go from beating someone down to getting beaten down himself in solitary.

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Death Warrant is perhaps the best prison film ever. Then Live by the Fist. That being said, this is no slouch. The opening scene is just amazing-- I don't even know if words can properly describe how awesome it is-- and from there it doesn't stop, leading up to a sweet prison riot to end the film. When you think 1990s DTV action, this is what comes to your mind. The only demerit I can give is the use of a helicopter at the end of the movie that wasn't blown up. Come on guys, don't get lazy on me, blow that fucking helicopter up.

I've never been a big David Bradley fan. Maybe it was how he spent most of American Ninja 4 as a prisoner as opposed to out there kicking ass. Outside the Law wasn't so hot either. But here he really makes his money. This movie came packaged with Outside the Law on Netflix, but if you go the Watch Instantly route, only Outside is available. Total ripoff. I am going to revisit some of the other films in his catalog based on the strength of this last movie. He hasn't done many, and he hasn't made a film since 1997. One of the most fitting things about his bio is he's listed on imdb as "David Bradley (V)", which means he's the fifth David Bradley, but (V) is also the term imdb uses for Direct to Video.

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Of course the other big draw in this film is the great Vernon Wells. I don't dig the face tattoo, and he seems to take a little off the amazing Australian accent, but overall he's pretty good. He plays a rival supplier of all things contraband in the prison to the people Bradley's investigating so, despite the fact Bradley's a cop, Wells is his ally. According to imdb, his crowning achievement, Bennett in Commando, will be shown on AMC this 4th of July. This is the kind of gem that is done a disservice by commercials and censoring. How does one guess when the seminal line, "Let off some steam, Bennett" occurs when there's commercials? How graphic will that scene even be? AMC shouldn't even show movies like that.

Japanese That Guy Yuji Okomoto plays the bad guy in this. You may think you don't know who he is, but trust me, you do. I looked him up on imdb, and he's been in six other DTVC movies: Ticker, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, Fortress 2, Mean Guns, Bloodfist V: Human Target, and Nemesis. I guess I should probably tag him, and maybe get rid of some of my tags for other, more superfluous actors. In case you're wondering, he was also in Pearl Harbor, perhaps the most soul crushing film ever made. Another major That Guy in here is Charles Napier. I'm not sure anyone embodies the That Guy concept more than him. When you see him, you just go, "Hey, it's That Guy." Looking him up on imdb for this review was the first time I even learned his name.

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One thing about this and a a lot of other prison films was the lack of prison jumpsuit. As far as I can tell, nothing means prison more than the jumpsuit, yet so few prison action films ever employ it. One of the advantages to the jumpsuit, obviously, is that it's harder to hide things in it than say a pair of jeans-- no matter how painted on they might be. I've never actually worn a jumpsuit in my life, prison or otherwise. I don't know, I guess the idea of unzipping my shirt every time I had to take a leak never really did anything for me.

You need Hard Justice. It's one of those things you could live your whole life without, fine in the knowledge that you have everything you want, then, after you've seen it, you can't imagine your life without it, and the idea that your life wouldn't have been quite as bright and you'd have never known, makes you pause a little bit.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113261/

4 comments:

  1. Good to see this movie get the props it deserves. It's one of those unsung classics from the early days of Nu Image, which put out some pretty enjoyable crap (less so today, with the pointless DeNiro/Pacino team-ups like Righteous Kill and their guaranteed-to-be- shitty Bad Lieutenant and Conan remakes).

    I saw a couple of really awesome early Nu Image ones recently in the same vein as Hard Justice you might like: Merchant of Death w/ Michael Pare (which is amazing because EVERY action sequence is composed of stock footage and Pare never shares the same frame with the baddies he shoots), and Hollow Point with Tia Carerre, John Lithgow, and Donald Sutherland. Ridiculous explosion movies with zero plot coherency and atrocious acting. Awe-inspiring crap which have made the top of my recent favs list.

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  2. That Bad Lieutenant deal looks frightening. I'll keep Merchant of Death in mind for my next Pare film. Hard Justice was just amazing from the start. This should've been the model for Righteous Kill.

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  3. Hard Justice Rocks!

    Great title, Kick-Ass opening and just a lot of fun!

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  4. Yeah, this film is the one thing that keeps David Bradley in my good graces, despite the Fanny pack Incident of Cyborg Cop.

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