Hard to Kill

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Hard to Kill
Hard To Kill.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBruce Malmuth
Written bySteven McKay
Produced by
CinematographyMatthew F. Leonetti
Edited byJohn F. Link
Music byDavid Michael Frank
Lee Rich Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • February 9, 1990 (1990-02-09)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11.5 million[1]
Box office$59 million[2]

Hard to Kill is a 1990 American action thriller film directed by Bruce Malmuth, starring Steven Seagal, Kelly LeBrock, William Sadler and Frederick Coffin. Seagal's second film after Above the Law, it features him as 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. The film was released on February 9, 1990, and grossed $59 million.


In 1983, Mason Storm, a Los Angeles police detective working for the LAPD's Internal Affairs Division, 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 that he is monitored by corrupt cops, Mason informs his partner, Becker and his friend Lt. O’Malley that he has evidence of corruption. While he goes shopping, 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 then he runs away. 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 Stewart, 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 co-workers killed, she helps Mason escape.

Needing time to recuperate, Andy takes 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 Sonny 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 they both manage to escape.

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 once by Max after giving the tape to Sonny for safe-keeping while having provided a distraction for him to get away. After shooting one more dead, O’Malley is then shot a second time, this time fatally but not before killing the corrupt cop that shot him by striking him with a tire iron to the head. When Mason arrives, he sees Sonny running away from Quentero and Nolan. Mason catches up with the men, subdues Nolan by breaking his leg and throwing him in a trash bin. He then reaches Quentero before Sonny is grabbed, and the two fight one another. 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 then goes after Senator Trent.

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 a pool cue into Axel's neck, killing him. Next, Mason leaves a death taunt to Capt. Hulland, another corrupt cop who betrayed Storm to Trent, and stalks Hulland through the house before cornering the corrupt captain near the fireplace. Mason then strangles Hulland with his necktie and breaks his neck, killing him. Mason finally confronts Senator Trent and holds him at gunpoint when the police storm the mansion. However, they reveal that they had already seen the film and knew that Mason was set up. Trent is arrested, and Mason is reunited with Andy and his son and walks off as the image from the videotape is played on the news, 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 a funeral for O'Malley. The theatrical trailer shows parts of the original ending.



Box office[edit]

Hard to Kill debuted at number 1 at the U.S. box office with an opening weekend gross of $9.2 million,[3][4] the biggest 3-day February opening at the time.[5] It eventually grossed $47.4 million in the United States and Canada and $59 million total box office worldwide [3] [6]

Critical response[edit]

It holds a 36% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews; the average rating is 4.1/10.[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated it a letter grade of D− and called Seagal as generic an actor as the film.[9] In describing the film as "a lively one for its genre", Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "Mr. Seagal is effective for both his novelty value and his ability to be both literally and figuratively disarming."[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "Hard to Kill ()".
  3. ^ a b "Hard to Kill". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  4. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-02-13). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE 'Kill' Opens Big; 'Cannons,' 'Stanley' Fade". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  5. ^ McBride, Joseph (February 13, 1990). "'Hard' Heads B.O. With $9.2 Mil". Daily Variety. p. 1.
  6. ^ "Hard to Kill ()". www.jpbox-office.com. Retrieved 2020-06-03.
  7. ^ "Hard to Kill (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Hard to Kill". Entertainment Weekly. 1990-02-23. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (1990-02-10). "Review/Film; Out of a Coma, Still Dapper and Disarming". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14.

External links[edit]