Michael Jai White goes on the hunt for his brother’s killers in this action-packed thriller from director Keoni Waxman.
John Payne, a retired operative for ASD, is set to open his own jazz bar in New York City when he receives a call. His brother Cody was killed during a mission in Bucharest. John decides to hold off on opening the bar and head there to get answers. Upon arrival, he runs into old comrade Arnold Briggs, who now runs the ASD. He warns John not to get involved as ASD are investigating. However, one man who knows John will want answers is Mason Bellows, Cody’s partner and most trusted friend.
Mason and Cody have been part of a new task force investigating a new drug running syndicate led by a mysterious man known as Toro. As Mason and John work together to search for clues and have been given evidence, John learns that Cody had stolen 5 million euros that belonged to Toro and had stashed it. Entrusting only John, John gets Mason’s help in tracking down the hidden money, but soon learns along the way that Cody has gotten married to a Romanian, Lacy, who has been looking for a way out as she has unwillingly become Toro’s moll. Deciding he can help someone in need, John decides to find out who Toro is, save Lacy, and avenge Cody’s death at all costs.
Michael Jai White has been a force to be reckoned with, especially in recent years. Whether he is kicking some serious butt or playing it straight, he has earned his respect as one of Hollywood’s best talents today. Keoni Waxman is quite a filmmaker whose straight-to-DVD films have had some pretty good rave, even when working the likes of Steven Seagal to name a few. For this film, this star-filmmaker duo takes a standard action plot and amp it with above standard action scenes.
White once again excels both acting and action wise in the role of retired operative John Payne, who is on a hunt to avenge his brother, who is killed in the opening scene of the film. White gets to unleash some Billy Jack-like monologue to a Mafioso who attempts to shake him down in his introduction sequence. And of course, White delivers as he always does when it comes to his martial arts action scenes. Playing his ally here is Luke Goss, who has made a name for himself in the action department. The former boybander from the UK had made waves in Blade II, Hellboy II, and two of the Death Race sequels. Here, Goss gets in on a few fights, but his character of Mason proves to be a marksman.
Randy Couture plays Arnold Briggs, the head of the government operative organization who only wants John to stay out of it. A very important character in the film is Lacy, Cody’s wife, played by Madalina Anea, who has a reputation as one of Romania’s top actresses today. Anea plays Lacy as a woman who is at a crossroads, wanting to break free from the clutches of Toro. She finds herself bonding well with her brother-in-law, who is willing to help her as this is a case of “killing two birds with one stone”.
One of the most sought after choreographers today is without a doubt, the Swedish-Chinese wunderkind that is Tim Man. Any fight he directs, the viewer knows they are in for a wild ride. Man choreographed some great action here, utilizing the amazing talents of White here. In addition, he even gets Goss in on some pretty good close quarter combat sequences when he is not using his firearms. Of course, the film does have some predictability and it leads to a showdown that is short but sweet.
The Hard Way may be a standard action film, but thanks to Michael Jai White and Luke Goss, along with Tim Man’s choreography, it delivers quite well on the action and becomes its main reason for seeing this film.
WFG RATING: B+
Hollywood Bridge Media presents an Actionhouse Pictures production. Director: Keoni Waxman. Producers: Philip B. Goldfine and Binh Dang. Writers: Thomas Churchill and Keoni Waxman. Cinematography: Liviu Pojoni, Jr. Editing: Ryan Stevens Harris.
Cast: Michael Jai White, Luke Goss, Randy Couture, Madalina Anea, Grant Campbell, George Remes, Ovidiu Niculescu, Andreea Diac, Michaela Holla, Adina Stetcu, Bogdan Farcas, Elias Ferkin.