Director John Badham was once a formidable force behind the camera; Saturday Night Fever, War Games, American Flyers, Short Circuit, Bird on a Wire, Stakeout and it’s toned down sequel. Currently he’s semi retired and occasionally directs the odd episode of Psych, he hasn’t helmed a movie for over a decade.
Back in 1991 Badham cast Michael J Fox as spoilt movie star Nick Lang, and James Woods as the hard nosed cop Lang is paired with in order to get research for an upcoming part.
This was the first post Back to the Future movie for J Fox, and this really should be more fondly remembered than it is. James Woods and J Fox are an unlikely double act, but then all the best mismatched duos are.
“You might wanna try skipping a meal every now and then. Somewhere there’s a small country going hungry.” John Moss
Detective Lt. John Moss (Woods) is a driven cop but in an action comedy setting so there’s no death wish or drug problem, just a tough, angry and sweary guy doing his bit to keep the streets safe. He despises babysitting an actor whilst notorious serial killer; The Party Crasher is causing havoc all over the city.
“Hello there! It’s me – again! Well, what can I say? I’m about to crash another party.” The Party Crasher
Stephen Lang plays the Party Crasher with suitable levels of insanity, Annabella Sciorra is Moss’ love interest Susan and a very young Christina Ricci is her daughter Bonnie.
The supporting cast treats don’t end there, appearances from Delroy Lindo as the shouty boss, LL Cool J as a smooth talking cop and Luis Guzmán who is contractually obligated to appear in every third movie Hollywood produces. It’s obvious why J Fox wanted the role, he has first hand experience with being type-cast and the extra layer of meta makes this all the more tasty.
Lang is a wonderful creation, J Fox clearly had a blast playing a brat and the fake movie trailer for Smoking Gun 2 is hilarious. John Badham’ light touch is sorely missed in cinemas today, none of his work is Oscar worthy but most of it is enjoyable and that’s no bad thing.
However, no director is perfect as Badham turned out the likes of skydiving actioner Drop Zone, the so so real time thriller Nick of Time and lets not talk about Incognito. Regardless of the dross that he went on to make, Badham has some real gems on his CV and The Hard Way is just as funny and enjoyable as it was 21 years ago.