The Hard Way (1991) Michael J. Fox is Nick Lang, a Hollywood megastar best known for playing an Indian Jones-type fantasy-action hero named Joe Gunn. (His latest opus, Smoking… R PT111M Action/Adventure Comedy Mystery and Thriller Michael J. Fox James Woods Luis Guzman LL Cool J Annabella Sciorra MCA/Universal Home Video
Movie Review

The Hard Way (1991)

MPAA Rating: R
EW's GRADE
D+

Details Rated: R; Length: 111 minutes; Genres: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Mystery and Thriller; With: Michael J. Fox and James Woods; Distributor: MCA/Universal Home Video

Michael J. Fox is Nick Lang, a Hollywood megastar best known for playing an Indian Jones-type fantasy-action hero named Joe Gunn. (His latest opus, Smoking Gunn II, is about to be released.) Nick enjoys all the usual movieland payoffs: money, fame, and endless parade of willowy groupies. But now, like the Joel McCrea hero in Sullivan's Travels, he's starting to crave respect as well. He's up for the lead in a serious urban police thriller, and to make sure he gets he part, he decides to hand out with real-life supercop John Moss (James woods). Moss is on the trail of a psychotic killer (Stephen Lang) and wants absolutely nothing to do with this pip-squeak thespian. Fox and Woods are both intensely verbal actors, and the two have such entertainingly diverse personalities — Fox with his boyish, wide-eyed alacrity, Woods with his grungy hostility — that we sit back happily and wait for the sparks to fly. Instead, we get a lot of damp wood. Half an hour into the movie, we realize it's going to be nothing more than another noisy buddy comedy about two guys in a police car — one a veteran, the other a know-nothing rookie — getting on each other's nerves. The director, John Badham, has brought the contemporary action comedy to a new peak of slick, propulsive emptiness. The amazing thing about The Hard Way is that, despite the high-powered matchup of Fox and Woods, it manages to be every bit as mechanical and tedious as Badham's last outing, the dismal Bird on a Wire. Once again, Badham has crafted an action comedy as relentless perpetual-motion machine, a two-hour car-crash movie in which the characters, between heavy-duty chase sequences, pelt each other with third-rate insults. We never do figure out why Fox is playing a Harrison Ford type (it would have made more comic sense to cast him as a Judd Nelson-style Brat Pack Method actor). and though Woods gets off a few good lines, his huffing and puffing becomes terribly repetitive. In the end, there are only so many variations an actor can do on ''Get out of my face, creep!''

Originally posted May 12, 2008 Published in issue #56 Mar 08, 1991 Order article reprints