3 StarsThe American Ninja David Bradley top-lines this explosive action flick from director Greg Yaitanes, who seems as if he has studies the works of John Woo ad nauseam. Co-starring a cast of familiar faces from better known films, Hard Justice is a remarkable straight to video production that doesn’t skimp on the goods when it comes to blowing stuff up, real good. Shot in exaggerated slow motion and choreographed much more skillfully than its contemporaries, this lean B-movie is ideal viewing for those in the mood for some mindless thrills.
Nick Adams (Bradley) is an ATF agent reeling from the death of a hostage, in a standoff gone awry some months before. Adams is forced back into work when his best friend is murdered while undercover at San Quentin. It becomes Adams’ mission to assume the identity of a convict to expose the corruption and find the killer who has his eyes now set on Nick.
The harsh life of prison presents many opportunities for Adams to show off his fighting skill, honed in the Marine corps and put to good use inside the institution. Things are going as planned until the arrival of Adams’ nemesis Jimmy Wang, an arms dealer/gangster who threatens to expose Nick’s true identity to the fellow inmates in general population. This being a ‘prison flick’ there is of course, a sadistic warden played with glee by Charles Napier. Yuji Okumoto of Karate Kid Part II fame is the villainous Jimmy Wang here, and I realized that I would have liked to see him just once cast as the good-guy sidekick, ala early Brandon Lee.
Even on a limited budget director Yaitanes keeps the action coming, capsized by a climax that begins with a helicopter pursuing a bus and ends with a fiery explosion. Bradley once again proves to be the Tom Cruise of Martial Arts films, with his All American good-looks and earnest commitment to the role no matter how ridiculous, it’s a trait Seagal could have used.
Director: Greg Yaitanes
Stars: David Bradley, Yuji Okumoto, Charles Napier