The Hard Way (1991 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Hard Way
The hard way poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Badham
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Lem Dobbs
  • Michael Kozoll
Produced by
Edited by
Music byArthur B. Rubinstein
The Badham/Cohen Group
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • March 8, 1991 (1991-03-08)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million
Box office$65.6 million

The Hard Way is a 1991 American buddy cop action comedy film directed by John Badham, and starring Michael J. Fox and James Woods. Stephen Lang, Annabella Sciorra, Luis Guzmán, LL Cool J, Delroy Lindo, Christina Ricci, Mos Def, Kathy Najimy, Michael Badalucco, Lewis Black, and Penny Marshall appear in supporting roles.


A serial killer-vigilante known as the "Party Crasher" telephones the police, notifying them that he is about to kill another person at a night club, daring them to stop him. Police converge on the night club, but the officers, including cynical NYPD Lieutenant John Moss, are unable to stop the murder. The Party Crasher flees in the ensuing chaos, and Moss is thrown off a car while trying to stop the killer. While Moss has his injuries tended to, he makes obscene comments to the media.

In Hollywood, Nick Lang is a pampered and capricious movie star who is best known as "Smoking" Joe Gunn, the Indiana Jones-like title character in a series of highly popular action films. In order to be taken more seriously as an actor, he is vying for the leading role in the heavy cop drama Blood on the Asphalt, which he believes will be a more realistic role. Nick vows to "prepare" for the role by attempting to act as an actual police officer with the rest of the NYPD. After seeing Moss's outburst on television, Nick pulls strings with New York City Mayor David Dinkins to be assigned as Moss's new partner. Moss wants no part of the deal, but is forced to comply by his captain, who is a Nick Lang fan. To make matters worse, looking after Nick means that Moss will have to be removed from the Party Crasher case.

Moss defies orders by continuing the investigation and repeatedly trying to ditch Nick, whose constant questions and attempts to mimic Moss's movements infuriate Moss. Nick wants to know what it feels like to be a cop, while Moss constantly reminds him that this is not a movie. Meanwhile, Moss is also trying to juggle a new romance with Susan, a single mother. The divorced Moss is unable to communicate with her or open up, and Nick offers advice to him on how to interact with women. Moss is embarrassed even further when Nick, as Ray Casanov, appears at a pizza parlor and is a hit with Bonnie, Susan's daughter, who dislikes Moss.

Moss takes Nick to a dark building to catch a perp, ordering him to stay put and giving him a real gun in case of an emergency. Nick, however, enters the building and shoots a man who he believes is a criminal chasing Moss. The man is revealed to be a bystander, leaving Nick terrified. Moss agrees to cover up the act, and urges Nick to leave town immediately. Nick returns from the airport to the police station to confess, only to see that the "dead man" is actually a cop. Moss choreographed the stunt to get Nick out of town, stating that Nick's panic, self-doubt, guilt, and anger are all part of being a "real" cop.

Nick tracks Moss down and stumbles into a confrontation between Moss and The Party Crasher, during which he saves Moss's life. The Party Crasher is wounded, but he kills several people and escapes. After Moss is told by Susan that his unstable life as a cop will never allow them to have a relationship, he is visited by Nick. Nick predicts that The Party Crasher will follow storytelling protocol and seek out Moss's loved ones in the third act of their story together. Nick is right, and Susan is abducted. Moss and Nick confront The Party Crasher on a billboard, advertising Nick's latest movie Smoking Gunn II, and a brawl ensues. Susan is saved after Nick intervenes and is shot in the chest. Moss throws the Party Crasher off the roof to his death. Moss tries to comfort Nick and gives an impressive speech about being a cop.

Several months later, Nick has recovered and filmed The Good, The Badge and The Ugly. Moss, now married with Susan, attends the movie's premiere with the rest of the department and is annoyed to discover that Nick's best lines in the film originally came from him.



As of October 2020, on Rotten Tomatoes, the film had a 77% approval rating from 22 critics, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The consensus said, "The Hard Way's overly familiar formula is enlivened by a witty script and the excellent comedic chemistry between Michael J. Fox and James Woods."[1]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times said that it is "not a perfect comedy by any means, but it is a very entertaining one" and commended its "pure Hollywood" sensibility, writing that it is "sometimes slapdash in execution and sloppy in coherence, but it's written, directed and performed with a redeeming, self-mocking zest."[2]

Time Out called it a "light, bright comedy" that "counterbalances Hollywood convention with some very funny swipes at the film industry" and stated, "Badham handles the numerous action sequences with confidence, but the real enjoyment comes from the interplay between the two leads, who revel in the opportunity to send up their images."[3]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three-and-a-half out of four stars and praised its "comic energy", calling the film "funny, fun, exciting, and [...] an example of professionals who know their crafts and enjoy doing them well."[4] Ebert said the stunts, special effects, and second unit work were "all seamless and exciting", and viewed that the actors elevate the film's plot with their performances:

[T]he film makers crank up the energy until the movie takes on a life of its own. [...] There is a certain exhilarating, high-altitude buzz you get from actors who are working well at the limits of their ability. Faced with a plot that was potentially predictable, Woods and Fox seem to have agreed to crank up the voltage, to take the chance of playing every scene flat-out.[4]

Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C rating and criticized it as having "coyly self-conscious high concept", writing that "takes the [action-buddy-cop genre] to such a numbing dead end."[5] Burr panned its chase scenes and editing as "visual nonsense" and called its plot "all guns and gag lines", although he found Fox "secure enough to goof on his own image and inventive enough to do it well".[5]

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted at No. 3 behind The Silence of the Lambs and New Jack City.[6] The Hard Way went on to earn $65.6 million worldwide.


The Hard Way: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score (Digital download / Audio CD) by
Arthur Rubenstein
ReleasedApril 2nd, 1991
LabelVarese Sarabande

Track list[edit]

  1. "The Big Apple Juice" [4:33]
  2. "Cirque Du Parte Crasher" [3:29]
  3. "Manhattan Tow Truck" [3:06]
  4. "Ghetto A La Hollyweird" [2:46]
  5. "He Said/She Dead" [2:44]
  6. "Big Girls Dont Cry" [2:23]
  7. "Where Have You Gone" [2:14]
  8. "Transit Authority" [2:08]
  9. "Gas Attack" [1:56]
  10. "Killer Lang" [1:56]
  11. "Smoking Gun II" [1:49]
  12. "Top of the World" [1:45]
  13. "The Good, the Badge and the Ugly" [1:31]
  14. "Run Around Sue" [1:29]


  1. ^ "The Hard Way". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 8, 1991). "The Hard Way - Review/Film; Playing Policeman in New York City". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  3. ^ "The Hard Way Review". Time Out. Time Out. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  4. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (March 8, 1991). "The Hard Way". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago: Adler & Shaykin. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  5. ^ a b Burr, Ty (September 13, 1991). "The Hard Way Review". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. (83). Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  6. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1991-03-12). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : Rocky Start for 'New Jack City'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11.

External links[edit]