(Original Publication Date: March 25th, 2019) By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: THE HARD WAY
STARRING: Michael Jai White, Luke Goss, Madalina Anea, Grant Campbell and Randy Couture
DIRECTED BY: Keoni Waxman
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: After learning his brother died on a mission in Romania, a former soldier teams up with two allies to hunt down a mysterious enemy and exact revenge.
THE REVIEW: This past week has certainly been a good one for fans of international action star and all around Hollywood star Michael Jai White, as he has been seen in the long awaited TRIPLE THREAT which hit theaters and VOD and now we have a little action gem that debuted on Netflix called THE HARD WAY and while White was a supporting player in director Jesse V. Johnson’s ensemble action epic, here he is front and center with the always dependable Luke Goss bringing some serious back up in a tale of an ex-special forces soldier out to get revenge for the murder of his brother. Throw in MMA legend Randy Couture from THE EXPENDABLES franchise then you have the makings for an instant classic in anyone’s books.
This movie swooped in like a film ninja as it was reported a while back that White, Goss and Couture were filming a movie in Europe but it literally came in under the radar and premiered on Netflix a few weeks back. THE HARD WAY is one of those pleasant action gems that taps you on the shoulder and says “Hey everybody, check me out!” This is one fan that is sure as hell glad he did as I finally sat down to partake in its awesomeness last night and let me just tell you, I rewound a whole lot of it just to see Michael Jai White do his killer moves over and over again. It is also important to mention that I get into some major spoilers in this review because you just have to to talk about the best part of the movie so if you haven’t seen the film yet, stop reading, go watch and enjoy and then come back.
As the film starts out, Mason Bellows (Luke Goss) and Cody Payne (Grant Campbell) are in hot pursuit of a suspect who is on the run. Mason and Cody are members of the elite ADS which is a top tier government organization but unfortunately something goes awry and Cody is shot and killed during the firefight the ensues. Now the only problem is Cody has a brother and that brother is John Payne (White) who was once a member of the same unit now retired and staring up a jazz club back in New York. When Payne learns of his brother’s death, he sets out to Romania on a mission to find those responsible. Payne reconnects with a former comrade named Arnold Briggs (Couture) who is now the head of the ADS and proceeds to put the pieces together and learns that Cody and Mason were hot on the trail of the secretive Toro who is the leader of a new and deadly drug syndicate who it running rampant over Europe.
Payne must now polish off his lethal skills that made him a legend in the black ops world and as he teams up with Mason, the two venture out on a do or do mission that will test the limits of both men but the bad guys are going to find out THE HARD WAY that Payne is the one who is on control and he will virtually stop at nothing and go through anyone to find Toro and take him down.
Now it is important to mention that Michael Jai White is the complete package when it comes to making movies. He is not just an action star as he has made numerous films in all genres. White, who excels at action and on screen fighting also brings that much needed gravitas to the screen and when he walks into a room, you know the man means business and it is best to get out of his way. White is the real deal in fighting, although his character of Payne admits that he doesn’t fight because that would imply that the other guy gets shots in at the same time, as he is an accomplished martial artist with years of experience under his belt. When he lets loose in an action film, fans are always in for a real treat and here he is in full on battle mode as the movie contains numerous scenes of fisticuffs and White kicking ass without so much as breaking a sweat.
In the supporting realm of the film, we have the always locked and loaded Luke Goss, who has also earned his action stripes in films and as Mason Bellows. Goss gets to showcase his stunt work several times through out the movie as he both gets to shoot and punch his way out of dire circumstances. Goss always brings it in these types of films and this one is no exception.
Last but certainly not least, we have MMA hall of famer Randy Couture as Briggs. While Couture doesn’t do much in terms of the physical stuff in the first two thirds of the movie, he finally gets to show us that he still has the moves that make him the legend in the Octagon that he is today. Couture has that intimidating factor when it comes to action roles and that has suited him just fine as he has played the role of Toll Road in all three EXPENDABLES films. Couture brings the authenticity and realism to the fights and it is always awesome to see him execute his signature moves.
THE HARD WAY isn’t complicated by any stretch of the imagination and it doesn’t need to be because fans know what they are getting with a movie like this and it is 90 plus minutes of White kicking ass and making people look stupid. Director Keoni Waxman, who has cut his teeth directing numerous Steven Seagal films like MAXIMUM CONVICTION, A GOOD MAN and CARTELS which also starred Goss, never slows things down and keeps the momentum moving at a fever pitch with a shootout or fight scene waiting in the wings every couple of minutes. The movie opens up with a bang and then five minutes later, we are treated to out first sequence of White unloading his fists and feet of fury on some goons that should have known better. Waxman also co-wrote the script along with filmmaker Thomas J. Churchill (CHECK POINT and the upcoming NATION”S FIRE) and they give White plenty of chances to shine with some choice dialogue. My favorite parts of the script happens when White basically tells his opponents what he is going to do to them before he does indeed do it to them.
Now when it comes to the action department, we are in good hands as the legendary Tim Man once again is here to execute some of the most exciting action set pieces and with White as his muse, we are in the presence of greatness. Man, who has choreographed numerous films such as TRIPLE THREAT, ACCIDENT MAN and NINJA II, gets to put his stamp of approval on another movie and raise it above others in the same genre. White gets to execute some of his breathtaking kicking combos but what I really enjoyed was the hand combinations he used in a lot of his scenes. The man is just plain fast and when he starts moving, it is hard to believe that a man of White’s chiseled build can move like that. His block and strike combos are a thing of beauty and like I said before, the rewind button will be on full display here as viewers will want to see what that just saw again and again.
Goss, also gets to excel as well and he gets a couple of tightly executed skirmishes including a climatic finale with one of Toro’s henchmen that is fast and furious (pun intended). Goss gets to show off his skills with a retractable baton and he gets to bring a world of hurt to the unfortunate folks on the receiving end. Goss has also earned his action stripes in numerous action films and here, he gets to shine once again. Fans will be pleased.
Now the main highlight of the film is the inevitable showdown between Payne and Toro and +SPOILER ALERT+ Toro tuns out to be Briggs but that is a surprise you will see coming a mile away. You just knew that White and Couture were heading for a collision course and when it finally happens, fight fans will get what they have been waiting for. Before our inevitable altercation, we get some pretty sweet displays of firepower as Payne and Goss take down an army of faceless goons. Bullets fly and bodies drop at a rapid fire rate. When the dust settles, and it is mano e mano, both men get to take their turns with the moves and even though I would have liked the fight to be a little longer it still delivered the goods. Hands, feet, knees and elbows are all on display here and when masters of their craft get to do what they do best, we are all the better for it.
To sum it all up, THE HARD WAY is another welcome addition to Netflix’s increasing action collection and I, for one, hope that maybe we will get to see Payne and Mason team up once again for another mission. White and Goss work off each other so well and you just want to see more of them taking down the bad guys once the credits roll. THE HARD WAY is 90 plus minutes of beat downs and firepower and you should do yourself the pleasure of making it a double feature night of Michael Jai White in TRIPLE THREAT and this film. When it comes to action…Michael Jai White is the king!
VERDICT: 4 Out of 5 Stars and
THE HARD WAY is Now Streaming on Netflix