Hard Kill Review: A Bad Day To Hard Kill Hard!
Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Dir: Matt Eskandari
Release Date: 2020
“The work of billionaire tech CEO Donovan Chalmers (Willis) is so valuable that he hires mercenaries to protect it, and a terrorist group kidnaps his daughter just to get it.”
Bruce Willis was a legitimate action star and has some absolute classics in his back catalogue (if you’ll pardon the expression). Sadly, he has also been banging shit like this out for a while now where he probably works for a couple of hours a day for a week, gets paid a few million and leaves them all to it. No blame being thrown here, Seagal’s been doing it for years as have a few other ‘aging’ action stars. Their name sells it so they get paid. Still, it would be nice to see Bruce try a bit more. He also appears to have an affinity with films that have Die, Hard and Kill in them as if, again like Seagal, he throws a handful of words into a random film title generator and makes them regardless of the outcome.
Anyway, on with the show…..
We open with a flashback scene of a shootout in an old, abandoned factory (aren’t they all?) where a band of mercenaries are under heavy fire among some random pallets and metal barrels. We get an electronic credits sequence which kind of sets us up for the technology aspect of the plot and straight into a clearly dodgy meeting between a lone, and beautiful young woman, and a group of obvious criminals. Turns out she’s selling a briefcase containing ‘Project 725’, some kind of tech server which utilises AI and, when run could change the world!
The whole tech side of things is written in a way which hopes some ambiguous buzzwords would suffice instead of actual detailed knowledge.
It worked for me and actually reminded me of a guy we used to have in I.T. who would try to explain everything he would have to do before fixing a quite simple issue. Sounded like he was just making shit up and this has exactly the same feel.
Either way, they never really give us a single good reason why this Project 725 actually exists other than it was possible and that pretty much also sums up this entire film.
We cut to an alarm clock and Jesse Metcalfe wakes up with a start all sweaty. Sweaty Jesse is Derek Miller and he has tattoos and scars so we know he’s seen some shit. He says his prayers while treating us to some flashbacks to some presumably Afghanistan conflict proving the seen some shit credentials immediately.
For breakfast, he assembles a handgun and heads outside. A stupidly long car arrives and inside it is Bruce Willis as Donovan Chalmers. Chalmers is a CEO of a huuuuge tech company but, as it’s Bruce Willis, he is also a former soldier who has Derek list his tours in Mogadishu, Somalia, Bosnia and Iraq for our benefit. How he then went on to become the CEO in this company is probably mentioned as well but this really isn’t important. Derek has been personally recommended to Chalmers for a job.
“Recommended? By who?”, (should have been ‘by whom’ but Derek’s seen some shit so he gets a pass).
The door opens and, “By me, you sonofabitch”, says a voice and it’s none other than Derek’s old comrade, Nick Fox played by the far better named, ‘Texas Battle’, which is a film title in itself.
How did Nick Fox get there?
How did he hear the conversation and know when exactly to make his appearance?
Why the Hell is he not already in the car? Surely, he would have to have been following Chalmers in another car which is a waste of time and fuel as there is room for about 8 people in the back of that limo. Either that or he got a cab – equally wasteful.
Maybe he lives nearby and walked over?
Maybe Chalmers is an old racist and doesn’t allow black people in his limo unless it’s the driver though they do then go for a drive which renders this theory null and void.
Well, whatever the reason, there will never be an old friend greeting to top the Schwarzenegger and Weathers cataclysmic handshake in Predator no matter how elaborate the setup, even if you do also use sonofabitch as a term of endearment.
Fox has a small beard which makes his head look a very odd shape.
Turns out the guy we saw buying Project 725 is an infamous terrorist also known to Derek, is played by Sergio Rizzuto and is called, ‘The Pardoner’. As character names go, that’s pretty shit. What is he? The Judge, Jury and Pardoner?
Hardly fills you with dread, does it?
Maybe he just doesn’t hear so well and refuses to wear a hearing aid because it makes him look less terroristy?
Well, I am again sure we find out why he’s called that, but I have forgotten and I am not looking it up.
Homework for you if you like.
Derek recalls he was shot in the back by The Pardoner at some stage in his life and that explains the scar we saw earlier when he was a sweaty mess. Everyone else in the scene already knew this so the info was purely for our benefit to set up the vendetta/payback angle.
Got that? Onwards….
Project 725 has a failsafe code to stop the device which only Chalmers knows and The Pardoner wants it for total control or something. Apparently, a plane has already been brought down by The Pardoner but I’m not entirely sure how or why. Only Derek Miller can be trusted to run security detail on this mission which is basically to go with Chalmers to a rendezvous point and that’s it. Besides which, Derek owes Fox for something or other and he can have unlimited resources. That seems to seal the deal along with Derek demanding he has total control over the entire operation. As that apparently means nothing, they all agree and we end the scene.
We cut to a bar where a few guys play pool when a sexy lady walks in and heads to the bar. One of the guys suggests some fat idiot goes over and grabs her ass which he promptly does only to be beaten up. The woman is Sasha (Eva Marie form the WWE) and she’s part of Derek’s team along with the other guys playing pool, Dash and Harrison. The poor old fat guy who got beat up was set up by the guys in the team. What a pair of bastards. Anyway, Derek arrives and they give us the usual, generic squad talk about ‘remember the last time?’ and ‘it’s not personal, it’s all about the money’ and they all end up agreeing to do it. It turns out that Harrison is Sasha’s brother as well. You’ll need that info for later. They end the scene with clinking bottles in the air and a shout of, “Hooooh- Aaah”.
We head off to the old plant building now which looks suspiciously like the abandoned factory warehouse in the opening scene. As soon as they arrive, they are in the sights of a sniper who does nothing but watch them. “What a shithole”, is the general consensus along with, “Too many windows, too many places to hide”. When asked where the rendezvous is, Chalmers, who is now wearing a tiny scarf, decides it is time for Fox to tell them the truth…. The Pardoner is coming! We have a long back and forth about double crossing, you’re the best team we could hope for and this was the only way we could have done it and such.
Derek: “So we’re bait?”
Chalmers: “No, I am.”
After Derek throws in the you put my team in danger shit, Fox just reminds them that it’s all about the money. The team suggest they beat the shit out of Fox but Chalmers stops them and explains that his daughter is being held by the bad guys and The Pardoner is going to kill her and blah blah.
Derek likes that family touch even though Bruce Willis seems he couldn’t care less about the whole thing. “The fight’s coming. Let’s get you safe”, and he whisks Chalmers off inside a brick room.
The bad guys begin to move in immediately after this like they were just waiting for them to be told the plot before making a move at all.
We are now only 25 minutes into the film. The next 73 minutes will be people hiding, fighting, shooting and swearing and this will get pretty boring before too long. The first example of this is immediate. The first team of bad guys move in so they can be killed immediately. One is choked out and presumably killed while another has their throat slit by Sasha. Both bodies are just left on the floor where they fell. Derek saves Fox from a gunman aiming from behind. They possibly nod at each other afterwards. It’s kind of a rule. A new strategy is suggested, they just leave and go home. Derek is steadfast in his quest to save Chalmers and his family for some reason so they agree to stay and continue the film.
Chalmers’ daughter now nervously walks back into the film. It is the woman from the beginning who met with these no-good bad guys. Her name is Eva and played by Lala Kent (This is the 4th film Kent has made with Bruce Willis in 2 years, with Trauma Center in 2019 also starring Texas Battle. Trauma Center and Survive the Night were also directed by Matt Eskandari. STATS).
Derek’s new plan is to go outside and have a chat. Eva introduces herself and immediately throws it all to shit by saying, “I hope my dad isn’t here”, in a massive facepalm moment the like of which not seen since The Naked Gun series. Eventually even The Pardoner has had enough and just walks into shot to trash talk Derek for a bit and then give us some New World Order (not the Hulk Hogan/Scott Hall/Kevin Nash wrestling breakaway group) talk and claims he talks the truth.
He also points out that the place is a security nightmare, as they all stated earlier but fails to mention the Health and Safety or asks if any Fire Wardens are on site so I’m not sure he’s actually that focused. For some reason, he then gives Derek an hour to bring him Chalmers and the code before they just storm the building and take it. No reason why, they heavily outman and outgun Miller and his team but still, that would have cut the film too short without hearing more tech bullshit.
Project 725 is an AI, a Quantum AI, like binary on steroids! Any idea what that means? Me neither but it sounds impressive. Apparently, Eva built it and then stole it as ‘The Board’ saw it all differently to her.
I have no idea what they are all talking about and I am betting they don’t either.
The Pardoner allegedly said he would help and maintains he is by giving her some equally vague blah blah that greed is the root cause and pharmaceuticals and politicians and he is a saint and he will burn it all to the ground and such nonsense.
Regardless of this, time is up and he’s sending his men in (35 minute mark so still another 63 minutes to go). 3 dead by a sniper, 3 more dead who just walk in through the front door, another one down but dragged to the side.
The Pardoner is asked if he’s sure about the plan as they are losing good men and he replies with more bullshit which will comfort the families of the dead none.
“Their sacrifice won’t be forgotten”, he says but never states by whom.
It’s a bunch of terrorist mercenaries attacking a warehouse in the middle of nowhere for little reason.
Who the fuck is going to hold a midnight vigil for this? Austin Powers had that one nailed. Henchman really is a thankless job.
Everyone without a speaking role wears a mask so they can probably play further part in this plan. The Pardoner just walks straight into the place with Eva and his team and he’s still talking his fantasy shit and we get more references to mass profits, people being sheep and slaves to the machine (like they don’t know about the rage against) and asks Derek to join him and fight for something that matters.
We’ll never know if Derek was even considering this as Eva elbows her captor and runs away which leads to a massive shoot out.
Many bad guys are killed and Fox is hit. Derek has his life saved by Harrison who is killed in the process and this pisses Sasha off even though he had stupid voice.
Bruce Willis meanwhile (remember Bruce is in this?) hears gunfire and decides to go and help. There is a crazy amount of machine guns being fired at nothing much, lots of bad guys being killed which leads to The Pardoner retreating. Chalmers finds his daughter and kills a couple of henchmen. Fox is wounded, presumably close to death and, Derek tries to save him, he tells them not to let The Pardoner start Project 725 which is actually the whole point of the film so not overly necessary.
Sasha obviously thinks fuck Fox, let him die and says exactly that. Derek tells them all to stay where they are (a little room) and he’ll go and find Eva.
Eva is with her father having a boring/touching bonding moment while in a clock tower along the lines of,
“We’ll be okay”,
“It’s all my fault”,
“You loved your company more than you loved me”,
After a noise, Chalmers tells Eva to go and hide just before, somehow, The Pardoner emerges by coming down some stairs into the clock tower meaning he was in the only place above them in the whole building.
How? Why? No idea but he punches Bruce Willis in the stomach instead of killing him as Bruce requests and I felt the same way by now.
The Pardoner gets on the radio and tells his men to bring in the massive computer server they must have carried with them from wherever they may have been travelling.
“I’ll torture Eva!”,
“TORTURE ME!”, is the painful dialogue and The Pardoner gets out a Rubix Cube.
Eva, meanwhile, is running loose in the compound.
“Fuck this!”, she says out loud and removes her coat, throwing it to the floor.
She is almost found by 2 Empirical Stormtrooper-like henchmen who are stopped on their patrol by, “C’mon, we’re needed at basecamp”, which is not true, nor does basecamp even exist. Even though Chalmers promises that Eva is ‘full of surprises’, she mainly just hides.
Finally, a female baddie turns up but she isn’t oiled up or muscular so I wasn’t too bothered.
Derek finds Eva and she runs through yet another list of nonsense regarding Project 725. It was designed to help Government efficiency regarding the economy and environment but ‘The Board’ wanted to flip it to the military as a weapon. They tested it on that downed flight they briefly mentioned earlier. The Pardoner wants to use it to wipe all bank records and computer systems in order to start a whole new world.
“Humanity isn’t ready for this kind of power”.
There would be no real merit in this plan to be honest unless it targets only the corrupt and those who gained wealth through nefarious means. What about the poor guy who has built up a business from scratch through long hours and hard work, just about on the brink of retirement and looking to leave it all to his son/daughter to keep them on the straight and narrow? Wipe him out! What about The Pardoner himself? He must have a bit of money stashed in order to afford these henchmen/women as they are clearly not working for him due to his warm personality, acting skills or cool nickname. He would also have his own finances reduced to nothing? I doubt it.
It might be me, but I just don’t really trust this murderous terrorist.
Well, the gang decide to fight for good instead of for pay and we get someone drawing up some schematics while the others give us the textbook dialogue,
“Will it work?”,
“It has to”, and some nodding.
The first part of the plan is to shoot the cameras which The Pardoner somehow had time to rig up all over the place while El Pards talks trash over a tannoy system which also still seems to work (I can’t imagine he set that up as well just to take the piss) until the idea to just pull the power would be an easier point of call.
Night vision goggles are now deployed by the bad guys, even though it isn’t dark, and they appear to be limited to a maximum of 3 people per patrol. Dash (of the good guys) suggests they actually sell the AI themselves on the black market but the rest of them disagree so he takes Eva hostage and offers her to The Pardoner in exchange for money. Dash really is a mercenary. Well, they agree the deal and The Pardoner has Dash shot after he hands over Eva.
Shootout time! Again!
We are then treated to the EXACT footage of the opening, ‘dream’, Derek appeared to be having. It wasn’t a flashback and I don’t think it was intended as a premonition. I think they just used the same footage twice, either thinking no one would notice, it cost a lot to shoot or they were really proud of it.
Sasha is also wounded and not just emotionally.
Eva and Chalmers are now tied together and being tortured by a boring story about how The Pardoner got his name.
I knew we found out eventually but forgot until I hit this part of my notes.
Sorry if you actually did that homework I mentioned earlier.
Apparently, he took it from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales where he is sent on a mission to seek out and kill Death. This clearly has no relevance here and Bruce Willis brings us all back to reality by calling him a ‘sick fucking terrorist’, while he still maintains he is doing it to, ‘level the playing field’. Derek declares he is going in alone, which is just as well as everyone else has been shot.
He has a bullet for The Pardoner! Hooooh-Aaah!
Derek then goes on a mighty rampage like Rambo or some shit using guns and knives to take out a shit load of bad guys while the bad guys get the generator back online and Fox apologises to Sasha for everything.
The Pardoner’s henchwomen doublechecks that he wants to go ahead with it all,
“There’s no going back”,
“That’s the point!”,
“Innocent people will die!”,
“Last 2 years planning for nothing?”
I’m kind of getting the vibe that he didn’t really explain his plan to the team before they signed up for it but neither did Fox and Chalmers so maybe that’s just another sad indictment on big business that this film serves to highlight. “Do it or die”, wins the argument and she initiates the failsafe code sequence. The Pardoner asks for the code, Chalmers declines, Pardoner punches Eva in the face,
“I’ll do it. I’ll give you the Goddam code” is how that dialogue goes and there is some crazy keyboard work (computer, not synthesizer) and, “we’re in”.
“Now what?”, is the question we’ve all been wondering,
“Who should we destroy first?”,
“Fuck you”, Chalmers cleverly throws back at him and we see Derek is nearly there after killing EVERYONE else in the place and wants to fight The Pardoner. While they are having their inevitable end fight, Chalmers and his daughter free themselves and head to Project 725 and have a chat regarding the whole plot again.
“Not my research”,
“We have to”,
“Ok”, and they initiate the self-termination protocol.
Derek and The Pardoner are still fighting at this point with neither giving up so it ends the only way such fights can ever end; the bad guy chooses to use a weapon and it ends badly for them. The Pardoner grabs a gun and he is shot by Bruce Willis fresh from saving his own bank account from going short.
“I’ve got your back, soldier”, he says as he and his daughter just fuck off leaving Derek totally alone.
Fortunately, Sasha and Fox are still hanging around the place so he meets up with them and they leave together after deciding to retire.
“First, lets get a beer”, is the line that makes them all forget about all of their dead relatives and friends and they all start laughing as they walk away from the scene of mass death.
This film is actually boring.
However long this review has taken to read, I will still have saved you way over an hour of your life so you are most welcome about that.
Bruce Willis looked as bored as I was but I wasn’t picking a couple of million for my efforts. None of it really had any point to it.
The plot was all over the place and massively vague as to why anything was actually happening. The claim that ‘The Board’ was going to flip it for the military to use as a weapon still doesn’t actually tell us what Eva was going to use it for.
Just all a waste of time.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER: The tiny scarf worn by Bruce Willis
FAVOURITE MOMENT: Eva deciding to remove her coat
FAVOURITE LINE: "Fuck this!" As Eva removes her coat
FAVOURITE DEATH: The Pardoner as all others were generic. Second favourite was henchman #28 who was probably shot.