Review by David Carter
Posted on 08 July 2009
Source Brentwood Home Video DVD
Categories Favorites: The Action Movie
American action auteur Andy Sidaris created a cycle of twelve films he jokingly referred to as “Triple B movies.” The Bs are bullets, bombs, and babes, respectively. While these elements may sound like a template for any clichéd action film from the eighties or nineties, Sidaris used them to create films that were postmodern, subversive, and thoroughly entertaining.
Hard Hunted finds agents Donna and Nicole enjoying a vacation after defeating Kane’s assassins in Do or Die. Kane is not taking a break from his weapons dealing, however, having obtained a nuclear trigger that he intends to sell to the highest bidder. Double-agent Mika steals the device – which is hidden in a jade Buddha – and delivers it to Donna and Nicole but dies before she can explain the object’s purpose. Mika’s death sends the agents back to Hawaii still under the impression that the Buddha is simply a valuable artifact. They soon learn how truly important it is as Kane’s forces launch an all-out assault on the duo as soon as they land, kidnapping Donna in the process. Donna manages to escape from the death trap Kane has prepared for her but becomes stranded on a remote Pacific island in the process. Donna’s escape sets off a race between the federal agents and Kane’s men for the island. Meanwhile, an amnesic Donna is held captive by the smuggler Pico, who surmises that both Donna and the statue will fetch a high price on the black market. Bruce and Nicole arrive to rescue Donna only to be greeted by a small army of Pico’s men, and a lengthy and bloody firefight ensues. Donna, now fully aware of who she is, joins them for a deadly standoff with Kane’s agent Raven and his high-tech personal helicopter.
In Hard Hunted we see Sidaris’ narrative abilities at their peak, breaking from his own formula to deliver a more straightforward – and well-executed – genre film. The film’s tight plotting and endless action are a departure from his typical relaxed pace and frequent sub-plots. Sidaris eliminates the battle-of-the-sexes mentality of his previous films and completely excises gender from the film’s narrative. Donna and Nicole are still depicted as superior to other characters, but the degree to which this is overtly referenced in the story is minimized; a male could have replaced either without making any significant changes. Hard Hunted is still a female-centric action film but only coincidentally so; the subversion of the male-dominated genre is external to the narrative.
The overall mood of Hard Hunted is considerably darker than Sidaris’ earlier works. Donna and Nicole have progressed as characters by the time of the film’s events; any innocence or compassion, however small they may have been prior, are now replaced with weariness and, on occasion, fury. The film marks the first time a villain has returned, and therefore Donna and Nicole take things personally, displaying the anger and drive one typically expects in the genre in place of their earlier professionalism. Profanity, conspicuous by its absence in Sidaris’ previous films, is used by both the heroes and villains throughout Hard Hunted. Apart from a few moments of comic relief – notably an inept assassin duo named “Wiley” and “Coyote” – Hard Hunted maintains its dark tone even through the open-ended finale.
The fact that Hard Hunted steers away from the gender issue makes another recurrent motif in Sidaris’ films all the more prominent. Sidaris’ entire series of twelve films is both parody and homage to the James Bond films, a facet of his work that Sidaris acknowledged in a 2000 magazine interview. In Donna Hamilton, Sidaris has created a hybrid of Bond and the typical Bond girl, a preternaturally gifted hero and beautiful ingénue combined. Donna and Nicole share this role equally in Hard Hunted as Nicole, typically the imperiled of the two, comes to Donna’s rescue when the latter is incapacitated. That Donna and Nicole – and previously Donna and Taryn – function jointly as the James Bond figure in the films is perhaps the most defining feature of Sidaris’ oeuvre since it encompasses both the gender subversion and the structure of the films. Sidaris replaces Bond’s solitary nature and misogyny with female agents who work as a unit and, most importantly, without the help of men.
Each film in Sidaris’ body of work shows the Bond influence but these elements are most readily seen in Hard Hunted. This is especially true for the film’s villain, Kane. Played by Pat Morita in Do or Die, Kane is now portrayed by R. J. Moore, son of longtime Bond Roger Moore. Moore’s Kane is remade in the mold of Blofield, complete with his own, unnamed version of SPECTRE and utilizing a smaller version of Emilio Largo’s Disco Volante as his home base. Moore does well in his role as the arch-villain and gives the agents a two-dimensional threat for the first time. Sidaris matches Moore’s efforts by dispensing with the cartoonish and shortsighted plots of his previous villains and allowing Kane to get the upper hand, albeit briefly.
Hard Hunted also continues another shared theme of the Bond and Sidaris films: gadgetry. Sidaris frequently relies on high-tech devices as plot points in much the same way Bond would employ a deus ex machina from Q to escape from danger. Budgetary limitations restricted Sidaris to using existing but rare firearms and vehicles as his “gadgets.” In Hard Hunted, characters employ no fewer than ten different types of vehicles, ranging from dune buggies and dirt bikes to prop-planes and hovercrafts. The film’s main threat to the agents comes in the form of Raven’s one-man helicopter, an existing technology but one that could be easily obtained by Sidaris. Though the copter has echoes in several specific Bond films, it is more important as a representation of Sidaris’ attempt to mimic as many of the tropes of the series as he was able to afford. The copter is ultimately a non-issue and is used exclusively by Sidaris as an allusion to the films that inspired him. Also reminiscent of the Bond series is Sidaris’ use of multiple locales. Hard Hunted, like most of Sidaris’ films, is set primarily on the exotic – yet affordable – islands of Hawaii.
Hard Hunted is ultimately an atypical entry in Sidaris’ body of work, but one in which many of his central concepts for the series are best displayed. It remains the strongest pure action film that Sidaris made and perhaps goes the farthest to promote the idea women are as capable of being action heroes as men. The seventh film in the “Triple B” series, Hard Hunted represents a turning point in both the story and Sidaris’ career. He would only make one more film with the Donna/Nicole pairing, the considerably lighter Fit to Kill, before handing over the series to new leading lady Julie Strain and passing the directorial duties to his son, Christian, for the films Enemy Gold and The Dallas Connection. Andy himself would return to the director’s chair for Day of the Warrior, the final film in our exploration of his work.
The Running Man1987
Death Race 20001975
Do or Die1991
Rambo: First Blood Part II1985
Day of the Warrior1996
The Good, the Bad, the Weird2008