Hard Kill - review (Netflix)
I watch it so as you do not have to.
Brief synopsis: A billionaire hires a group of special forces mercenaries to protect him from a terrorist that wants to kidnap him and retrieve some codes for a new program he has developed. The terrorist is known to the group. He is a man they had believed dead. The terrorist also has the billionaire’s daughter.
Is it any good?: Hard Kill is terrible. Of course it isn't, Bruce Willis is in it and he has not been in a good film since the second Die Hard. Maybe the third. Willis aside, Hard Kill is a mess of a film with a convoluted story, crappy dialogue and awful performances. I would say it is, mercifully, short with a runtime of only ninety-seven minutes, but watching it is such an eye-searing torture, it feels like it is hours long. Avoid.
Spoiler territory: In a warehouse, filmed in slow motion, a team of mercenaries are up against a small army all clad in black. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Sometime before, Eva Chalmers (Lala Kent), a blonde with too much botox in her face, is meeting in a scary, unspecified, warehouse location, with The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto), a terrorist and the bad guy.
We know he is the bad guy because he has a scowl and his beard is not very well tended to. Eva gives him a hard drive. It contains project 725 on it, a miracle A. I technology apparently. The Pardoner - a really stupid name for a character that I am going to have to type multiple times! - is very pleased to receive it. I think he is anyway, can’t really tell.
As any self-respecting terrorist would be, especially if what he says is true and how it will help him change the world. He is an antagonist with a plan. It is a stupid plan but a plan nonetheless. He is going to change the world.
The next morning, Derek Miller (Jesse Metcalfe - the pretty boy from Desperate Housewives) is woken from his slumber by his mobile phone’s alarm. He grabs his phone. There is a message. He has a meeting later in the day. For some reason, this prompts him to pray. As he prays, he remembers the conflicts he has seen. He is a soldier, his body marked by war.
Whilst having a coffee for breakfast, Miller cleans his gun. His apartment is not exactly a palace. He gets dressed and goes to his meeting. He is picked up by a limousine. In the car is Dayton Chalmers (Bruce Willis), after a brief introduction he tells Miller that he is impressed by his service record.
He himself was in the military - of course he was - and saw a lot of action. Now he is a tech billionaire. Miller wants to know why he switched from going to war zones to becoming a tech billionaire. Chalmers, who for some reason still wants to employ the idiot, tells him it was because of family. Okay then….
Miller wants to know who recommended him to Chalmers. The Limo picks up another passenger. It is Nick Fox (Texas Battle), the man who recommended him and an old colleague of Miller’s. The two men greet one another and Fox gets down to selling the gig to Miller. He tells him about The Pardoner and how he has stolen a piece of dangerous tech.
There is a failsafe code that can prevent The Pardoner - argh! - using the technology fully. Only Chalmers has there code. Fox wants Miller and his team to look after him until they can retrieve the tech. Chalmers wants to check out an old warehouse site and needs protection whilst doing that. That’s the story they give him anyway. It should be an easy job and it pays well. Really well. Miller agrees to take the job.
At a bar, Dash Hawkins (Swen Temmel), persuades his drunk buddy (Adam Huel Patter), to hit on a girl at the bar. As he heads towards the woman, Harrison Zindel (Joe Galanis), who had been playing pool and watching the scene unfold, tells Dash he is an arsehole. The drunk grabs the woman at the bar. The woman, Sasha (Natalie Eva Marie), Harrison’s sister, slams the drunk’s head into the bar, twisting his arm behind his back.
As Harrison and Dash giggle, Sasha, noting their glee, scowls at them. Miller comes into the bar and tells her to let go of the drunk. They have business to discuss. The four sit down and Miller tells them about the job that Chalmers’ has offered. Sasha is not so sure, it does not sound right. Miller tells them it is an easy protection job. Alarm bells surely? No? Okay…
Sasha agrees to do the job. Dash, at the thought of a good payday, is all in as well. Harrison does not think it is worth the hassle and wishes them good luck. Sasha, who does not watch shitty B-movie action films, persuades her brother to come along, effectively signing his death warrant.
The next day, the team accompany Chalmers and Fox to the abandoned warehouse. On the roof of one of the many buildings, a sniper is watching them as they enter the site. Inside the building, Miller asks where the building manager is. Fox tells him there is no building manager. It was a ruse to get him and his team there.
The Pardoner - nope. Nah. Stupid! - is meeting Chalmers there. He has his daughter - yep, the same one that gave him the tech - and wants the codes in exchange for her. Outside, the antagonist - it’s better than calling him the Pardo..! - has a small battalion of men all clad in black with face coverings, watching the building.
He has Eva in cuffs. He grabs her by the back of the head telling her that he thought she would understand his methodology. She will understand when it is all over. All I understand is he has watched too many Bond films and is an underwhelming villain.
Back in the warehouse, Fox is justifying his duplicity by telling Miller that all of them and their ilk, ex-military types, crave action and money. He is offering both. Miller tells him that not only did he bring them there under false pretences, they are also undermanned and lack firepower. The rest of the team want to beat the smug out of Fox but Bruce, sorry, Chalmers tells them not to.
They are there because of him and he would do anything to get his daughter back. Maybe he should have employed more people then, it’s not as though he could not afford to. Miller decides to try and find the safest place for Chalmers to stay whilst they try to protect him or get his daughter back or whatever…
Outside, Pardon-Bloke’s team is moving in. Miller threatens Fox, telling him if anything happens to his team he will come for him. Fox is nonplussed, as well he might be. It turns out to be an empty threat. The team head out to face Pardon-My-French’s henchmen. The henchmen stalk around the grounds and inside the warehouse, guns at the ready.
The team hide around corners and in alcoves and begin stacking up the bodies. Outside, Lt. Colton (Tyler Jon Olson) radios the scouting team. He gets no response, them being somewhat dead and all. He relays to Pardoned-For-Bad-Acting that Chalmers seems to have a better team than they thought. Scowling happens. He comes up with a new approach.
In the warehouse, Miller knows that there is a bigger attack coming. The soon to be deceased Harrison bleats about the money being too easy for it to have been such an easy job. Dash, who is a bit of a rat, says they should make a run for it. They already have the money. Miller, a principled man, says he cannot leave Chalmers and his daughter. Besides, they never run from a fight. Sounds a bit punchy.
Eva is sent to the warehouse on her own. Fox goes out to get her. She asks him if her father is there? He tells her she was the only way to get him there. She thinks he is only there for project 725. Yeah, the film is still about that apparently. Pardon-The-Pun comes out of hiding and points a gun at Eva. He sees Miller. They are old enemies but he does not bear a grudge.
Miller does bear a grudge. That damn Pardon-Fella shot him in the back. In the back! After Pardon-my-P-and-Q’s talks a lot of bollocks about his plan and mentions project 725, he takes Eva away, his henchmen and the sniper persuading Miller and Fox to retreat to the warehouse.
The team confront Chalmers and Fox. What is project 725? It is an artificial intelligence program but not just any A. I program. It is a quantum A. I program. Okay. Completely clear then. Eva stole it - well, she created it - and gave it to Pardon-My-Unshaven-Appearance. She wanted to help the world.
Outside, Eva is feeling like a fool. She thought a man whose first name is ‘The’ and surname ‘Pardoner’ was going to help her solve the world’s problems. Right. He wants to help the world, he tells her, in an egotistical monologue painting himself as a saint, that he wants to reset the world.
Back in the warehouse, Dash has retrieved weapons from all the henchmen they killed. Miller worries about darkness falling. Unfortunately, after paying Bruce, they could not afford to shoot any night scenes and at no point do we see nighttime.
The plan, if one can call it a plan, is to hide and pick off the henchmen. So, same as before then. Dash shoots a few from the window and, even though they can see the approach to the front door, one of the henchmen has enough time to blow torch through a lock into the warehouse.
The fact that the building has multiple entrances and windows galore and, as Pardon-Guy alluded to earlier, is a security nightmare does not dissuade the henchmen from coming through the entrance that is most likely to get them shot. In they come and the bodies fall. Colton is not happy. He asks Pardon-But-I-Don’t-Mean-To-Be-Rude if he is sure about the plan.
Preacher-Pardon asks him if he is doubting the cause. Colton says he is not but they are losing men. Pardon-The-Lie tells him that he feels their pain. Well, that’s a lie. They’re dead. Anyway, he assures Colton he will not forget their sacrifice. Um, okay. He tells Colton to send more men to their deaths around the side entrances. Colton, the worse leader ever, complies.
Colton leads a team into one of the rooms in the warehouse. Pardon-My-BS brings Eva and another bunch of targets into the warehouse. In the room, Miller and his team are hiding behind pillars. They have their guns trained on Pardon-Matey and his henchmen. Pardon-If-I-Speak threatens to kill Eva again and wants them to bring Chalmers to him. Eva elbows him in the stomach and runs. Miller’s team opens fire.
They are all terrible shots and do not kill any of the henchmen before they begin to return fire. Colton’s crew come into the firefight and Harrison gets killed. Oops. Sasha gets mad and tries to shoot everyone with scant regard for her own safety. Dash pulls her out of the firing line.
Fox gets wounded and Miller pulls him out of the firing line. Pardon-My-Backbone retreats with his henchmen. Chalmers hears the gunfire and leaves his safe room. Eva, who is running around the warehouse aimlessly, is about to get perforated by a couple of henchmen but is saved by her father.
The team get the wounded Fox back to another room. He cannot help anymore and is bleeding badly. Unsurprisingly, Sasha wants him to die blaming him for getting Harrison killed. She then opens up the argument, making Miller and herself culpable in his death.
Eva admits to her father that the whole situation is her fault. There really is a lot of guilt going around. They talk about family stuff and other bollocks that does not help the story at all. They hear footsteps. Chalmers gets Eva to hide and is captured by Pardon-I’m-Back. He knows he will not kill him as he needs him for project 725.
Pardon-My-Mad plan has his henchmen bring in a massive amount of computer equipment as he pushes forward with his masterplan. He knows that Chalmers will not give him the codes and tells him so as he plays with a Rubik’s cube, to make him seem more interesting. It doesn’t work. The fact that it is already completed does not help either.
He tells Chalmers that he is going to find Eva and torture her to get him to reveal the codes. Disappointingly, he did not follow that with a maniacal laugh. Eva continues to sneak around the warehouses, evading the henchmen. She does a terrible job and is spotted by a couple of them. She runs and hides but is found by Miller.
The henchmen report back to Pardon-Sir-I’m-An-Idiot, who now has a tech wiz, Gemma (Jacquie Nguyen), has joined him. She is setting up the computers for project 725. Miller returns to the safe room with Eva. Eva tells the team that Pardon-The-Bad-Guy has her father and wants the codes but her father is strong.
She goes on to bleat about the people she worked for wanting to make money from her invention. Pardon-My-Mad-Plan wants to use it to crash and erase every computer on earth and put everyone back to the Dark Ages. Told you it was convoluted.
Eva wants them to help her stop him. Miller is up for it, he is the hero after all. Sasha wants to do it for her brother. Dash is in the room so….okay? Eva draws a plan of the warehouse layout from memory, she is a genius after all. The plan is to knock out the power so as they cannot power the….computers. That sounds more stupid the more I read it.
They begin to execute their plan, shooting cameras on the way because Gemma has hacked into the CCTV feed and killing henchmen. Pardon-But-I-Know-You’re-Out-There comes over the tannoy system and tells Miller to give him Eva and he will let him live. Obviously, Miller does not do that and they carry on their mission.
They get to the power room and pull the power. The computers go out. All of them. In every other film, the tech expert has a battery-powered laptop. Not in this one. Electricity goes out, everything is out. The warehouse is plunged into darkness. Well, not really. Remember I said they could not afford a night shoot?
Miller and Sasha sneak around in the daylight - pretend night - lit warehouse, wearing night-vision goggles and shooting henchmen. Dash, who has cat vision and doesn’t need night vision goggles it seems, throws a grenade at a couple of henchmen.
The team come together. Miller says they need to get Chalmers. Dash has a different idea, he thinks they should sell project 725 on the black market. He grabs Eva, taking her hostage. He takes her to go and find Pardon-Have-You-Seen-My-Codes. Sasha and Miller follow after him. They all run into Pardon-The-Poop-Head and more henchmen.
After a brief exchange of gunfire, Dash tries to make a deal with Pardon-Still-A-Bad-Guy and gets shot for his troubles. Eva is captured once again. Miller and Sasha return fire and kill most of the henchmen. Sasha gets winged by a bullet as she goes to Dash. Dash dies. Sasha, hard as nails, barely reacts to getting shot.
Eva is dragged back to the computer room and plonked next to her father. Pardon-My-Ego bores them both of them stupid with a philosophical allegory. He makes more threats about project 725 and getting the codes once the generator is on. Miller gets Sasha back to the safe room. He is going it alone now. She and Fox - he has not bled to death - are to escape while he distracts…everybody.
Miller leaves the room and goes on a killing spree, taking out multiple henchmen with a hunting knife. He even manages to sneak on to the roof and take out the sniper. It really is his fault everyone is dead. They were slowing him down!
Pardon-My-Masterplan has his computers back online. Gemma has trepidation about the plan to destroy all the world’s data. Pardon-My-Bullying-Attitude asks her if she wants to back out. She does not say anything. He leaves and goes to try and persuade Chalmers to give him the codes, threatening to kill Eva.
Chalmers refuses. Pardon-My-Ungentlemanly-Conduct smashes Eva in the face. Chalmers still refuses. Gemma has project 725 up and running and wants to know what they are going to destroy first as it is partially operational. Pardon-My-Smugness cannot decide. He hears gunshots. Miller has killed all of his henchmen.
Gemma, who is only in it for the money, decides that it is time to leave. Pardon-My-Huge-Ego goes to face Miller. They fight as Chalmers and Eva free themselves from their, frankly, pathetic restraints. They go to the computer and Chalmers tells Eva that they have to destroy the program. Miller and Pardon-Beardy-Not-Good are still fighting.
Miller is winning but Pardon-Slimy-Git gets a gun and is about to shoot him. Chalmers shoots him dead. Miller goes and finds Sasha and Fox. They go for drinks. The end.
Final thoughts: Wow. Hard Kill is awful. With a story by Clayton Haugen and Nikolai From and a screenplay by Chris Lamont and Joe Russo - not one of the Russo brothers, no - Hard Kill is a hard film to enjoy on any level. The story is rubbish, the acting not much better and the directing, by Matt Eskandari, is borderline experimental.
There is no sense of urgency in the film and Rizzuto’s The Pardoner is such an underwhelming villain you know he is going to lose. His plan is ludicrous and pointless and madcap. Project 725 - which should probably have been the name of the film - is just a Mcguffin that you do not care about because it is never explained properly.
The gunplay and action are mundane, with the faceless henchmen in the film just for a body count. At just over ninety-five minutes, Hard Kill is an hour and a half of your life that you will never get back. In 2020 for many of us there have already been enough wasted hours. Give this film a miss.