Hard to Kill

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For the album by Gucci Mane, see Hard to Kill (album).
Hard to Kill
Hard To Kill.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bruce Malmuth
Produced by
Written by Steven McKay
Music by David Michael Frank
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by John F. Fink
Lee Rich Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • February 9, 1990 (1990-02-09)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million
Box office $48,915,430

Hard to Kill is a 1990 American action thriller film directed by Bruce Malmuth, and starring Steven Seagal, Kelly Le Brock, William Sadler, and Frederick Coffin. Seagal plays Mason Storm, a detective who falls into a coma after being shot during a fire-fight that killed his wife. Reawakening seven years later, Storm embarks on a journey to avenge the death of his wife, and expose the corruption of Senator Vernon Trent.


In 1983, Mason Storm, a Los Angeles police detective, investigates a mob meeting that takes place by a pier. He records a shadowy figure who assures the mob they can rely on his political support. Storm is spotted, but escapes. Unaware he is monitored by corrupt cops, Mason informs his partner and then his friend Lt. O'Malley he has evidence of corruption. While he shops, a store is robbed, and one of the robbers shoots the clerk. Mason stops them and goes home, intent on celebrating with his wife, Felicia.

Mason hides the videotape in his house. When he goes upstairs, a hit squad composed of corrupt policemen, including Jack Axel and Max Quentero, break in and proceed to murder Mason's wife and shoot him. Mason's young son, Sonny, hides until the danger passes. The corrupt policemen frame Mason, making it look like a murder-suicide. At the same time, assassins kill Storm's partner. At the hospital, Mason is first pronounced dead, but is then discovered to be alive, although unconscious. To prevent the assassins from finishing the job, Lieutenant O'Malley tells the medics to keep Mason's status a secret.

Seven years later, Mason wakes from his coma. Andy, one of his nurses, makes a phone call, which is intercepted by corrupt police officers. They send Axel to finish the job and kill the nurses to whom Mason might have talked. Mason realizes that he is still in danger, but his muscles have atrophied to where he can barely use his arms. He staggers to an elevator, and when Andy sees her colleagues killed, she helps Mason escape.

Needing time to recuperate, Andy brings Mason to a friend's house, where Mason uses his knowledge of acupuncture, moxibustion and other meditation techniques to recover his strength. While training, Mason hears a commercial for Senator Vernon Trent and recognizes the voice from the pier. Mason contacts O'Malley, who supplies him with weapons and tells him that his son is still alive—O'Malley adopted Mason's son and sent him to a private school so that he would be out of danger. After O'Malley leaves, Senator Trent's men find the house and attempt to kill Andy and Mason, but Mason gets them both out.

Posing as a real estate agent, Mason recovers the hidden videotape from his old house. He meets O'Malley in a train station, where O'Malley brings Mason's now-teenage son. They do not see each other, because as Mason arrives, O'Malley is already dead, having been shot by Max after giving the tape to Andy for safe-keeping while having provided a distraction for Sonny to get away. When Mason arrives, he sees his son running away from Quentero and Nolan, another corrupt cop, working for Trent. Mason catches up with the men, subdues Nolan by breaking his leg and throwing him in a trash bin and fights with Quentero. Mason beats up Quentero and recognizes him as one of the men who took part in the assault on Mason's home and the murder of his wife. Mason then proceeds to snap Quentero's neck, killing him and saving his son. Mason decides to go after Senator Trent at his home.

At the Senator's mansion, Mason sneaks in and manages to eliminate the Senator's men one by one. Mason fights with Axel in the billiard room and avenges Felicia by jamming a piece of pool stick into Axel's neck, killing him. Next, Mason leaves a death taunt to Capt. Hulland, a corrupt cop, who betrayed Storm to Trent. Mason stalks Hulland through the house and corners the corrupt captain near the fireplace. Mason then strangles him with his necktie, killing him. Mason finally confronts Senator Trent and holds him at gunpoint when the police storm the mansion. However, Trent is arrested instead. Mason is then reunited with Andy and his son and walks off as the image from the videotape is played, showing Trent coming out of the shadows briefly, wondering who is taping him.

Original ending[edit]

Originally, the movie ended with Mason actually killing Trent, and some time later Mason, Andy and Sonny attending funeral for O'Malley. The theatrical trailer shows parts of original ending.


Principal cast
Supporting cast
  • Andrew Bloch as Capt. Dan Hulland
  • Branscombe Richmond as Max Quentero
  • Charles Boswell as Jack Axel
  • James DiStefano as Nolan
  • Dean Norris as Det. Sgt. Goodhart
  • Zachary Rosencrantz as Sonny Storm
  • Bonnie Burroughs as Felicia Storm
  • Lou Beatty, Jr. as Carl Becker
  • Nick DeMauro as Mr. Calabrese
  • Nick Corello as James Valero
  • Justin De Rosa as Mikey
  • Stanley Brock as Counterman
  • Evan James as Danny
  • Tomas Trujillo as Shotgun Punk
  • Geoffrey Ian Bara as Sonny Storm (age 5)
  • Robert LaSardo as a Punk
  • Ernie Lively as LAPD Captain


Warner Bros. demanded that the movie be heavily re-edited down to 90 minutes running time in order to be more straightforward and fast-paced, and to insure that it would have more theatrical screenings for better profit. Similar re-editing also happened to other Seagal movies that he made for Warner Bros. Some scenes were cut while some others, including parts of the plot, were deleted, which is why the movie suffers from bad editing in some parts. Some of the scenes that were deleted during re-editing are the original opening scene between Storm and his wife and son, Trent's men interrogating and killing Andy's black nurse friend, a part where Storm's son Sonny is kidnapped by Trent's men, but manages to escape, O'Malley's funeral scene, and more dialogue between characters in many other scenes. The ending in the final version where Trent is arrested was actually the alternate ending. In the original ending, Storm kills Trent and says, "Take that to the bank", a phrase that Trent used throughout the movie.


The movie received mixed to negative reception.[1][2] It currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film cemented Seagal's status as the "Aikido action hero" due to the very esoteric, anachronistic techniques his character employs to overcome antagonists.[citation needed] For example "knee-walking" while in seiza (正座, literally "correct sitting") is employed to navigate a convenience store aisle without exposing the head to gunfire; this has origins in culturally-mandated etiquette, specific to pre-Meiji Japan and during some traditional arts such as the tea ceremony and Ikebana.[citation needed] (Robert Twigger's book Angry White Pyjamas mentions the story of a Japanese police officer, and aikido trainee, using knee-walking in a similar fashion during a gunfight.)

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted at number 1 at the box office.[3] It was a commercial success, making over $47 million in the United States.


  1. ^ "Hard to Kill". Entertainment Weekly. 1990-02-23. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (1990-02-10). "Review/Film; Out of a Coma, Still Dapper and Disarming". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  3. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-02-13). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE `Kill' Opens Big; `Cannons,' `Stanley' Fade". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 

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