Saturday, June 26, 2021

Hard to Kill (1990)

Steven Seagal is immortal and omnipresent. This actually goes along with Shintoism, which he picked up as an aikido instructor in Japan before he got into movies. However, when he talks himself up in English (or rather sings himself up, if you listen to his Songs From the Crystal Cave album) it’s almost insulting. He’s a chocolate fiend who can’t hold back, and all those candy bars caught up with him in recent years. I’m sure he’s sensitive about that. Sorry.

I was hunting through my collection for Friday the 13th: Part II, specifically the part where Corey Feldman gets jumped by Jason. Instead, I found Hard to Kill. Out of morbid curiosity, I jumped to a random point in the timeline when Steven Seagal was dry-humping his blond supermodel wife who looks like the girl from Looker. Expecting the narcissism to reach a hard R, I was surprised when men in masks burst into the room and blew them both away with shotguns.

Flash forward 7 years to comatose Seagal, who’s too big a target to live but too much a badass to die. He’s also wearing a fake beard and the nurses can’t get enough of him. Neither can I. Seagal wakes up, his #1 fan phones the cops per written instructions (by whom?) and an assassin inevitably comes for the world’s #1 badass. What follows is this:


There it is: the inspiration for Kill Bill. Along with Quentin Tarantino and the author of Seagalogy, I am now a member of the secret Hard to Kill club, and now you are too.

Anyways, Seagal escapes the hospital with a nurse and trains up in an epic montage. The shots start to drag on forever as people talk about blood pressure and Chinese medicine. Then they suck face for a minute, Seagal visits his wife’s grave, some other bullshit happens, the assassins chase the nurse, Seagal meets up with an old friend, the budding couple pack up to leave, and the bad guys come with automatic weapons that look and sound extremely generic. Aikido fighting inevitably happens. Everybody goes to Chinatown, more bullshit, the evil senator tells his gal “we’re not gonna make the ballet tonight”, and Seagal happens.

In this movie, we’re not laughing at Seagal, we’re laughing with him at the absurdist moments in the film. I pause briefly to imagine a female version of Seagal. Uma Thurman of Kill Bill doesn’t have enough post-coma muscle. The role calls for a physically powerful sociopathic narcissist. Somehow that role always goes to the guys. I would enjoy a Hard to Kill Bill if the tone is right. For now, the martial auteur has graced us with quite a backlog of films that I encourage you to watch (or at least play as background noise while you do other things).