We’ve seen so many strange couples in countless buddy movies throughout cinema history, yet I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this hilarious 1991 action flick, The Hard Way.
It all begins with a celebrated Hollywood actor, Nick Lang, who craves authenticity for his next role as a cop and, eager to experience the job on his skin, convinces reluctant NYPD sergeant John Moss to allow him to accompany him on his daily routine.
Moss is an old-school cop of few words and many deeds, so he is less than enthusiastic about the idea of babysitting the spoiled star; but unfortunately, his captain is a big fan of his movies and leaves him no choice.
To make matters worse, Moss is busy trying to catch the dangerous Party Crasher, a ruthless assassin who enjoys challenging the police by announcing in advance where he will hit his next targets.
Moreover, the policeman is going through a delicate period in his personal life, dating a new woman after a long time, the young sweet single mother, Susan.
Unexpectedly, the wacky actor will give him the right advice to break the shyness between them because Moss is obviously in love with her but afraid of ruining everything with his uncompromising attitude.
His mood does not improve when the Party Crasher starts picking on him personally after a TV interview where Moss ridicules him by belittling his intelligence and villainy.
Nick Lang thus finds even more realism than he was looking for when he gets caught in the crossfire of these two street gunslingers during a no-holds-barred duel.
Pumping talent into a light action comedy
Undoubtedly, the beating heart of a buddy movie like The Hard Way from 1991 is the friendship/hate relationship between the protagonists and their mutual interactions, spiced with differences and similarities crucial to the plot’s success.
Indeed, their familiar faces evoke a sense of affection, a nostalgic reconnection with an unforgettable cinematic era.
The same applies concerning the narrative’s pace, which offers a relentless, vibrant flow with a bright, calm sense of humor that blends seamlessly with old-fashioned explosive action sequences and moments of wisdom laced with irony, creating an amalgam rich with dynamism.
Unable to escape his vortex of adrenaline-fueled life, the cop character does not seem to enjoy a single moment of quiet, not even in the company of his charming companion, who enters the scene with a stunning Annabella Sciorra, whose performance I recently praised in Jungle Fever, Spike Lee‘s masterpiece.
Her welcome presence enriches the narrative tissue, instilling a delicate measure of femininity in a frenetic testosterone-soaked environment, effectively balancing the dynamics of the action comedy genre.
Nevertheless, the apparent sweetness of her character should not deceive because her figure is not a mere decorative and silent element but plays a crucial role in the perfect overall harmony and final resolution of the plot.
Finally, it is impossible to ignore the outstanding contribution of Stephen Lang, portraying the absurd villain with almost surreal energy and an always over-the-top aggressiveness.
Lang is also no stranger on these pages, having already recommended him in the unusual horror series Don’t Breathe, while here he offers a more comedy-oriented interpretation, making his character equally unique and unmistakable.
The hard way of the old school
Along with this stellar cast comes an undisputed directing power figure of the period, John Badham, a virtuoso of this craft who left his mark between the 1970s and 1990s.
Known for directing some unforgettable cult hits of my generation, such as Saturday Night Fever, WarGames, and Short Circuit, he also has a string of plays under his belt that you might call hidden gems, such as Blue Thunder, for example, an aviation thriller that keeps you glued to your seat and that I’ve more than willingly recommended on my site.
Loyal to his style, Badham never forgoes pure action devoid of digital effects, enhancing his talent at the camera with the skill of the stuntmen crew to create breathtaking scenes.
With the addition of a more prominent comedy element than his usual, the light-hearted tone of sparkling glee pervades even the most intense scenes of tension or romantic intimacy.
In this sense, every aspect of the plot is cleverly exaggerated, starting with the characters walking stereotypes within familiar narrative dynamics that we have seen many other times in the cinema.
This choice has led many to consider the film trivial, yet as we see today in many movies that would like to be simple without succeeding, even making this kind of entertainment is no less complex than working out more serious plots.
Indeed, many critics dismissed the plot and characters as silly. Still, audiences rewarded the movie, leading The Hard Way to gross over $65 million in 1991.
So who is right: the critics or we, the audience? As Woody Allen suggested in his eponymously titled film, the golden rule should be Whatever Works; meaning embrace every stuff you find which makes you happy.