After the somewhat disappointing Second In Command Jean-Claude van Damme makes up for it with the surprisingly entertaining The Hard Corps. A movie that could be considered a blaxploitation action flick as the majority of the cast is African-American with J.C. sticking out like a sore thumb, and I mean that in a good way actually. Van Damme plays a war-veteran with P.T.S.D. named Philippe Sauvage (I love it when they just acknowledge his accent by giving him a French name). Sauvage is chosen by a black army buddy of his to be on the security detail of boxer-turned-developer Wayne Barclay. Wayne was responsible for putting Rap-mogul and Suge Knight copy Terrell Singletery behind bars. When he’s released on early parole, he makes it his goal to see Wayne be killed as soon as possible. But Singleterry hasn’t counted on “The Hard Corps”.
The Hard Corps reunites Van Damme with Sheldon Lettich; a man responsible for helming 3 previous Van Damme movies: Wrong Bet, Double Impact and The Order. though not having many movies under his belt, Lettich is capable of making some fun martial arts movies. While The Hard Corps focuses more on gun fights he still sneaks in some hand-to-hand combat on several occasions, including a nice brawl between the bodyguard and person he’s supposed to be protecting.
Where Second In Command felt like a movie made for a few bucks on a sound stage, The Hard Corps actually looks bigger than its budget. It’s set in America, there are plenty of out-door scenes, there’s not just Van Damme but also Vivica A. Fox as a recognizable name attached, there’s even quite an impressive original soundtrack including a theme song. You don’t hear that any day in a DTV-movie.
Unlike Steven Seagal in his movies revolving around urban enviroments (i.e. black people/ghettos) Van Damme doesn’t try to pose black. He sticks out which is kind of the idea here. It’s a fun gimmick, but it does make the movie somewhat politically incorrect. The movie has a white savior narrative and has a lot of (negative) stereo types concerning black people.
I would love to hear Spike Lee’s opinion on this movie. He has always been outspoken about the use of race in American movies. Even his own movies always have strong racial tone. Here’s a movie with a black cast in which the majority is played off as a stereotype. The rich black guys made their initial money either through sports, music and/or criminality. The bad guy is surrounded by young gangsters all doing stereotype gangster things like holding their guns sideways. The good guy has a snow bunny (a white trash girlfriend). There is a corrupt white cop. Jean-Claude and his cowboy hat wearing army buddy are the white saviors who have to learn the black people to bodyguard and save their behinds on multiple occasions. I’m sure Spike Lee will have a field day with this movie.
The only problem The Hard Corps has is pacing. One of the unwritten rules of DTV-movies is that they have a running time of about 90 minutes. The Hard Corps has a running time of 110 minutes, making it 20 minutes longer than it should be. The length problem is evident as it takes some time to get story going. It takes about 20 minutes before Van Damme is in place as the bodyguard and we have our first shoot-out. After that there is some unnecessary material kept in the movie mostly focusing on Vivica A. Fox’s character Tamara going from resenting Philippe to loving him.
The Hard Corps will never be remembered as one of Van Damme’s most noteworthy movies, but it’s a fun flick which I, surprisingly, thoroughly enjoyed. Surprisingly because of the varying degrees of quality of Van Damme movies released since 1996. It’s always a mystery if it will be a good movie. The Hard Corps erases the bad taste movies like Second in Command, Derailed and Knock Off might have left you with.