HARD TO KILL (1990)
Hard to Kill
Directed by Bruce Malmuth
Written by Steven McKay
Starring Steven Seagal, Kelly Lebrock, and William Sadler
Seagal Kill Count: 9
Best Line: “I’m gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent. The blood bank.”
Riding the moderate success of Above the Law, WB signed up for yet another Seagal actioner with yet another three word title – Hard to Kill (originally called The Seven Year Storm, which I think is a much better title). This was the Seagal movie I watched the most as a kid, and until I knew better, was one of my favorite action movies as a youngster.
Mason Storm is tough as nails, rich, good looking, and has a huge dick (yes, the movie makes that apparent). After Storm stumbles upon a plot to kill a senator, an assemblyman, the mob, and some crooked cops break into Storm’s house and kill him and his wife, narrowly missing his son. Unbeknownst to the villains, Storm survives. He wakes up from a coma seven years later, sporting a Jesus look. Aided by an ex-Internal Affairs agent and a terrible nurse, Storm trains for a week, forgets he was in a coma, and heads out to kill everyone responsible.
There’s not a whole lot of good here. The action scenes, while not bad, don’t have the crackle that they did in Above the Law. The best fight scenes in the movie are short and sparse. If I had to give one bright spot for Hard to Kill, it’s William Sadler as Senator Vernon Trent. He is perfect as the slimy Assemblyman/Senator who arranges the killing of Storm and his wife. His ‘acting’ at the hospital where Storm is announced as dead is perfect.
Seagal did a fine job with what he was given (or with what he wrote, according to him). When he did get a chance to beat someone up, the hits looked nice and stiff.
Seagal cast Kelly Lebrock (his wife at the time) as his nurse. At this point, she had been in two movies (Woman in the Red Dress and Weird Science) and is simply awful here. After each dangerous encounter, she has silly quips that don’t at all stick with the tone of the film (for example, after she finds out that her friend was murdered and then narrowly escapes death, she says “Oh, I forgot to lock the door.”).
While fun, the fight scenes are short and shoehorned in. We get Seagal beating the hell out of more stereotypical Hispanic people in yet another grocery store. While cool, the fight was clearly just plopped into the script for Seagal to maim people. It has zero connection to the rest of the story. Another fight scene shows Seagal walk into a mansion in which our cookie cutter bad cops are conveniently playing pool. Nothing in the film seems to happen organically, with some situations just flat out ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous, I have to mention the coma. Our hero is shot in the chest (which wouldn’t cause a coma in the first place, but even less so when we see that Storm’s scar is really on his shoulder anyway) and goes into a supervised slumber for seven years. The general consensus when it comes to comas is that for every day you’re out, you need a month of recovery (not to mention how destroyed his muscle structure would be at that point). Storm recovers from the coma completely in a matter of days, and everything from his coordination to his aim is back.
The blood/mouth effect when Senator Trent has his teeth knocked down his throat by a shotgun. You can clearly see that it's just black tar put over his teeth and in several shots you can see his painted teeth. The red clown makeup around his mouth from shot to shot is also really bad.
The scene in which Storm wakes up from his coma has to be mentioned, as it's so creepy. Lebrock, the dayshift nurse, walks in and checks on her patients to start her shift. It's already apparent that she's got a thing for this living corpse (healthy). She whispers to him, "Would you like a little pussy, J.D. (John Doe)?" and then miraculously has a kitten that she puts on his bed. Then she lifts up his sheet to take a look at his dick and says, "You've got so much to live for. Please wake up." If this were a male nurse and a female patient, the audience would think the nurse was a creep and a loser. Yet here she is, the lovable Andy (by the way, you only know her name is Andy from the credits - her name is only said once in the film and it's muttered under a crooked cop's breath). Adding to the creep factor is that she and Storm "make love" days after he's out of his coma, he all but forgets the wife who (in his mind) was just gunned down.
All this work for revenge against the senator, and in the end, Storm doesn’t even kill him. In the original script, he did kill him – but here, he lets him live. It was puzzling, to say the least.
Seagal is involved in two different sex scenes here, and there’s no charisma involved in either one (even the one with his real life wife).
I wish I would have left this one in the past. The fight scenes we get aren’t bad, but two straight movies of an un-hittable super cop gets a bit tiring (Seagal only takes one or two punches the whole film). It’s hard to believe that this beat out Goodfellas at the box office in 1990.
It’s really tough to make a straight sequel to Hard to Kill, as I can’t conceivably put Mason Storm in a coma again. However, there is one very important thread that we never really capped off in Hard to Kill.
My sequel would have been pitched directly after the success of the first movie and would have been filmed in 1993 (right after Under Siege’s success). It picks up directly after the events of the first movie as well. It’s simply called ‘Storm’.
We pick up at O’Malley’s funeral. This scene was in the script for Hard to Kill and was definitely filmed, but was cut for timing and importance. That’ll help us here. Storm, Andy, and Sonny are among the many people at O’Malley’s funeral on a misty morning. During the event, a shooter nearly gets the drop on Storm and says, “courtesy of Calabrese”, the person who was working with Senator Vernon Trent from the first movie (we never found out what happened to him in the film). Storm dispatches him but realizes he needs to get his family to safety. The rest of the movie would deal with Mason Storm and the rest of the cops from the funeral going up against the mob.
Of course we’d need to have a bit of comedic relief, so his partner here would be John Stamos. He would have been a big name because of Full House at the time, but he wasn’t in movies much, so the price tag would be low. The two main foils for Storm would be a big beefy mobster, to be played by James Gandolfini (he would have just come off of True Romance) and Mark Dacascos, who could have gone toe to toe with Seagal for some lengthier battles. Calabrese, who wasn’t really shown in the original, would be played by Dennis Hopper.
OTHER INTERESTING NOTES:
In the script, the corrupt cops kidnap Sonny from his baseball game, but he gets away.
In the script, Vernon Trent dies at the end. He swings the fire poker at Storm as he does in the film, but instead of just ducking, Storm counters. This knocks Trent into the fire and he impales himself on the log hold while his head burns. It was amazingly violent and seemed like a fitting end to Trent.
In the script, Storm and his kid have this stupid knock knock joke thread that they keep pulling from. It’s ridiculous.
It was originally called The Seven Year Storm.