Friday Fisticuffs: Close Range & Hard Target 2

close-rangeI’ve been a fan of Scott Adkins’ action flicks since I first saw Assassination Games back in 2012. The next year I was blown away by Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning, which is still one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. With that in mind, I’m pretty much watching every one of his movies that pop up on Netflix or Amazon Prime. As it happens, the Flix has a nice pair in Close Range and Hard Target 2!

In Isaac Florentine’s Close Range, Adkins plays Colt, a soldier-turned-criminal who shows up in town to save his sister’s daughter from the local crime lord’s son. As you might expect, that’s far from the end of the story as the gangster doesn’t take too kindly to this assault against his kid. To get revenge, he brings some of his best thugs to Colt’s sister’s place and they spend a solid chunk of the movie trying to kill Colt while he successfully kills them.

Florentine also helmed Ninja and Ninja 2, two more solid Adkins flicks. Like with those films he has a great head for mixing modern film-making sensibilities with bits of other genres. In this case, you get healthy western doses as the story progresses. Speaking of the story, I’m glad they didn’t go the usual revenge route on this one. It would have been easy to off the sister or niece, but that’s both really harsh and done-to-death. Plus, protecting family when they’re alive is an even better motivator than revenge!

And those action scenes? They’re killer as you can see in the trailer and the above clip from the beginning of the movie. Close Range features plenty of gun play and shoot outs, but the real joy comes when Colt battles his way through that hotel at the beginning and just goes non stop at the end in his efforts to keep his sister and niece safe.

hard-target-2Like with the aforementioned Universal Soldier sequel, Adkins takes over for Jean-Claude Van Damme in Hard Target 2. In my mind, the original film is one of my favorite JCVD movies, but upon reading my Friday Fisticuffs review from 2011, I may be mistaken. I was also incredibly mean to Yancy Butler for some reason and actually cut that part out.

Anyway, in the original, JCVD and Yancy get hunted down in the Bayou while in this one, Adkins’ Wes Baylor is tricked by Robert Knepper’s character into traveling to Burma — also the setting of the excellent Rambo — where the ex-fighter becomes the prey to a bunch of rich hunters with crazy weapons.

Of the two movies, this was the one I liked less. As I said, Close Range did a few new, fun things while this Roel Reine film felt pretty familiar. Even though he’s got not soldier training, he runs around using weapons like a pro to take out far more experienced foes. Oh and he also stumbles upon a woman and her brother who he tries to keep safe for the rest of the movie. So, it’s kind of a reverse Predator or the umpteenth take on that “The Most Dangerous Game” short story.

Hard Target 2 would be pretty far down my list of recommended Scott Adkins movies for new fans to check out, but it’s not a total wash. He gets to mix it up in the ring at the beginning, in a series of underground bare knuckle fights and in the woods, so that’s good. Plus, Robert Knepper was literally born to play villains I love to hate.

If you’re looking to make a double feature out of these movies, I’d go with the sequel first because it’s kinda whatever and then dive into the much better Close Range!

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