Hard Justice (1995)

Has justice ever been this hard? Possibly, but it sure has never used this much ammunition! Or hand grenades! Or stuff exploding! Or had David Bradley giving and receiving kicks to the face like they were some kind of bizarre prison handshake!

Prison? What is David Bradley doing in prison? Isn’t he usually a kickboxing hero whose most notable jail sentence is the three American Ninja sequels he starred in? In the time-honored film tradition of such hard hitting classics such as Robert Redford’s Brubaker and Jean Claude Van Damme’s Death Warrant, Bradley is actually undercover in prison looking into the death of his fellow ATF agent and best friend Manny.

While we never really saw David’s character Nick Adams interact with Manny, we know they were the closest two dudes who never shared a jail cell could be when Nick reacts to the news of Manny’s death with a facial expression that could easily have been mistaken for a prison guard burping in his face after a lunch of the warden’s special meatloaf recipe!

And while a regular old great “David Bradley goes undercover in the joint” movie would no doubt use the death of Manny as all the causation of Nick being haunted, Hard Justice is sentencing the audience to 90 minutes of pure awesome because Nick only learns about Manny’s death while he is already off in the desert being haunted by something else!

And that something else is a battle against arms dealer Jimmy Wong that opens up the film with so much violence, death and fiery blasts, Hard Justice could easily be forgiven if the rest of the movie just involved the surviving characters sitting around and reminiscing about how bad ass the opening sequence was.

The mission Nick is on at first seems to be the absolute height of poor planning and all around complete disregard for established law enforcement tactics when it sees Nick crash through a skylight from a helicopter right into the middle of the big arms sale with zero back up! But what follows is Nick shooting tons of people, running and diving through the air in slow motion, and everything in the warehouse of broken down budget-friendly cars is apparently made of some outer space substance that has only one quality: total flammability! So it turns out to be the perfect plan after all!

But while the carnage on display during this operation seems ripped straight out of the Book of Revelation for its apocalyptic and calamitous end times battle between our messiah of mayhem and the devil’s disciple of destruction, it is in fact those final, almost intimate moments of the battle between Nick, Jimmy, some broad we don’t know and a hand grenade that result in Nick being so haunted, it has an impact on the last showdown in the movie! And by impact, I mean that Nick has smartened up enough to learn to shoot the grenade right in Jimmy’s hand after a woman jumps out of the way! This has the bonus of also causing Jimmy to explode into a shower of cathartic chunks!

Making an exciting beginning and ending is easy though. A big gun battle to establish the heroes and villains and another fight to conclude things between them isn’t too hard to make happen, assuming you have plenty of junked cars to blow up and a couple of gross of blanks. It’s the middle of the movie where characters have to talk and a story has to occur that usually sinks these types of films. Hard Justice though knows exactly what it’s doing by setting the bulk of the movie inside the prison run by evil warden Charles Napier. (That sentence alone just made you go out and buy the DVD, didn’t it?)

David Bradley vs. Charles Napier (Mean Tricks) in a prison is all the characters and story we need! The movie hits all the prison sweet spots, too. Nick fights his cell mate to a stalemate until they become best buddies. An evil guard delights in beating Nick. Nick has a fight in the prison cafeteria, the laundry room and the shower room. (Probably some of the best acting David Bradley has ever done is kickboxing a bunch of dudes while only wearing a towel that incredibly never comes close to falling off!)

When Jimmy Wong improbably, but admittedly unsurprisingly, shows up as a prisoner (he survived his earlier gun battle with Nick), Nick groans and whines to the warden that he needs to be let out because he is really undercover, but the audience reacts giddily in anticipation of the inevitable prison riot and warden’s rampage (Napier ends up running amok with a pair of Uzis) that are sure to come from this development.

As is to be expected in such an affair where only two people know Nick is undercover and it is being kept off the books by his supervisor, it actually makes zero sense that he was allowed to go undercover in search of the truth in the first place. In fact, considering who the warden ends up being in business with, it doesn’t even make sense that Nick’s friend was allowed to go undercover in the prison in the first place. Of course if you wanted rationality in your life, you’d be taking a course in mathematics, not watching a David Bradley prison movie.

Still, this is definitely one of the cream of the David Bradley crop, with a complete reliance on continuous violence that effortlessly moves from the prison fights to Bradley’s impressive battle on a helicopter against a surprise villain to his equally entertaining fight on a bus against Jimmy Wong before diving off just before it goes rolling down a hill!

It may not make sense and what is going on in the prison and who’s doing it is pretty standard for these sorts of things, but any time the movie threatened to bore you into not liking it (whenever Nick’s female friend posing as his lawyer was on), Nick would go and get himself kicked in the head and another episode of brutality would erupt and stimulate my violence-addicted pleasure centers sufficiently to keep me watching.

© 2017 MonsterHunter

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