The Hard Way (1991) – John Badham

Micheal J. Fox has always been one of my favourite actors, I grew up watching him on Family Ties, wanted to be hi in Back to the Future, and followed him to Spin City and beyond, so when his buddy-cop movie was coming out in 1991, you know I was there for it.

Fox plays Nick Lang, a Hollywood box office superstar who wants to do something without a roman numeral in the title. He wants to expand his art, and he’s convinced he can score the part of a cop in a gritty drama, if he can soak up the cop life and experiences undercover. He finds his muse in New York cop, John Moss (played to perfection by James Woods, when he just seemed angry). Moss and his squad, including LL Cool J, Luiz Guzman and Delroy Lindo as his captain are after a serial killer who calls himself the Party Crasher (Stephen Lang).

Lindo’s Brix has been asked by the mayor to pair Lang with Moss, who is promptly removed from the Crasher case, so he can tend to Nick, and keep the star safe. Something which, surprise, angers Moss who is determined to catch the Crasher, while trying to figure out his blossoming relationship with Susan (Annabella Sciorra) and her daughter, Bonnie (Christina Ricci).

Nick seems to invade Moss’ life, insinuating himself into the Crasher case, trying to help Moss connect with Susan, and just trying to be a good movie cop.

But Moss doesn’t want him around, and the Crasher is still out there…

There is some meta humour at work, as the unlikely pair get close to stopping the Crasher, before finding themselves in his sights all while promotion for Nick’s new film, Smoking Gunn II is opening to blockbuster business.

This is a very enjoyable film, and honestly, I was surprised, having watched it for the first time in over two decades, how many pieces of dialogue from this film I use in my day to day life. It must have been a fun role for Fox as he’s kind of riffing on some of his own image – people loved him in ‘fun’ movies, and while he could turn out incredibly powerful dramatic performances they didn’t always draw as much of a crowd – he was pigeonholed into an image, and that’s what the public wanted – Lang is the same way, and is determined to break out of it.

There’s lots of laughs, and even some solid action beats throughout the film, and I feel this could be a bit of a hidden gem – and I had so much fun revisiting it.

And Micheal J. Fox!

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