Seagalmania: Hard to Kill (1990)

Steven Seagal returns in Hard to Kill, a coma revenge movie that isn’t as good as Above the Law but provides some decent entertainment nevertheless. Directed by Bruce Malmuth, this 1990 actioner brings more martial arts and gunplay to the game and allows its protagonist to deliver a few of the best bad one-liners in the genre.

Seagal continues to press buttons and move action movie heroes into the 90s with a bit more interesting material. He’s about as far from the right-wing archetype as possible, practicing Chinese medicine techniques and going after politicians willing to do anything to get hired. In Above the Law, Seagal made a firm statement against “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Here, there’s nothing quite so earth-shattering.

Mason Storm (Seagal) is a cop and family man. When we first meet him, he’s spying on a politician named Vernon Trent (William Sadler) as he makes a deal with the mob to eliminate his rival. Storm gets spotted by the mob, but manages to get back home before trouble comes to his doorstep. His wife (Bonnie Burroughs) and son (Zachary Rosencrantz) get caught in the inevitable crossfire, while Mason is put in a coma by the hit squad.

Seven years later, Storm wakes up from the coma and finds himself in the care of a nurse named Andy (Kelly LeBrock). The mob is after him immediately and he must escape from the hospital with Andy’s help. She takes him to a place she’s housesitting and he begins the arduous process of nursing himself back to health. Revenge is on his mind and, once he pieces together the clues, he goes after the now-Senator Trent.

Hard to Kill is a good flick for those in the mood for a guilty pleasure or two. Seagal’s Storm not only has one of the best action hero names, but he manages a pretty killer goatee while in the coma. The scenes of him training and getting back on his feet are fun enough, too, with the ultimate in killer lines coming once he rediscovers the identity of his nemesis. To those in the know, the “blood bank” line is priceless.

This film also marks the debut of the ubiquitous Seagal ponytail and allows the star to kick in some more of his dramatic sensibilities. Hard to Kill includes its share of kick-ass scenes, like the liquor store fight that finds him invoking some serious Aikido and the random cast of shooters that show up at the house to try to take him down (watch out for the guy on the roof that looks like he’s on a hunting trip), but some might find its ridiculousness too hard to take.

There are, as with most movies of this ilk, a lot of issues. Obviously it has its fair share of clichés and cheesy moments, like the Storm’s relationship with his son and the lacklustre badness of Sadler’s Trent. The coma stuff is probably really, really wrong in a number of ways, but it’s more or less a plot device to spring Mason Storm into a new life and get him ready for some serious revenge.

Again, Hard to Kill is one of those movies that isn’t good in the traditional sense. There’s not a lot to really say about it, but it fits snugly in Seagal’s career and isn’t a bad second movie. It’s good in terms of guilty pleasures and silliness, but it’s not good in any traditional sense. With that in mind, I figure I can kind of recommend it and move on.

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