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The Hard Way (March 8, 1991)



Spoiled movie star, Nick Lang, decides that he wants a film role with some real meat to it. However, the role he has his eye on is not being offered to him due to his sterotype of a light-hearted adventurer. To remedy this, he partners up with New York’s grittiest homicide detective to learn what it’s really like. In the process he gets himself mixed up with a crazy serial murder case. Read an extremely detailed synopsis here.



GENRE: Action-Adventure/Comedy
TAGLINE: There’s only one way these two are going to get along…
SETTING: New York City, New York; USA

  • Chicago, Illinois; USA
  • New York, New York; USA

U.S. RELEASE DATE: March 8, 1991
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes; 1 hour 51 minutes
TOTAL GROSS USA: $24,525,330


WRITER: Lem Dobbs, Michael Kozoll, Daniel Pyne
DIRECTOR: John Badham
PRODUCER: Rob Cohen, Will Sackheim
EDITOR: Tony Lombardo, Frank Morris
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald McAlpine, Robert Primes
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Harrison, John Kasarda
ORIGINAL MUSIC BY: Arthur P. Rubenstein
SPECIAL EFFECTS BY: Jeff Jarvis, John McLeod, Mike Reedy
MAKE-UP BY: Bron Roylance
PRODUCTION COMPANY: The Badham-Cohen Group, Universal Pictures
DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures



Nick ‘Ray Casanova’ Lang…Michael J. Fox
Detecitve John Moss…James Woods
The Party Crasher…Stephen Lang
Susan…Annabella Sciorra
Grainy…John Capodice
Pooley…Luis Guzman
Billy…LL Cool J
Cina…Mary Mara
Captain Brix…Delroy Lindo
Witherspoon…Conrad Roberts
Angie…Penny Marshall
Bonnie…Christina Ricci
Drug Dealer…Geroge Cheung
Newsman…Frank Geraci
Pizza Waitress…Sophie Maletsky
Bankers…Lewis Black, Rand Foerster, Anderson Matthews
Lang’s Girl Friday…Kathy Najimy
The Dead Romeos…Dante Smith, Bill Cobbs, Dwayne McClary, Sharrieff Pugh, Anthony Thomas, Howard ‘Stick’ Baines, Shawn McLeam, Curtis L. McClarin
Asian Gang Leader…Keenan Leung
Diner Waitress
Ticket Taker…Jack Gindy
Fake Dead Guy/Cop…John Costelloe
Head Mugger…Leif Riddell
Muggers…Johnny Sanchez, Joseph Tripi
Woman in Subway…Karen Lynn Gorney
Continental Representative…Janet Sarno
“Smoking Gunn” Girl…Holly Kuespert
Homeboy Cop…John Ring
Cop…Michael Jeffrey Woods
Witherspoon’s Bodyguard…William Truesdale
Clothing Salesman…Mark Woodcock
Chief Villian…Ed Setrakian
Frog Dog Vendor…David Sosna
Dead Entertainer…Adore O’Hara
Pizza Man…Michael Badalucco
Movie-Goer…Jordanna Freedman
Scared Subway Woman…Merrill Witten
Wino…Fracaswell Hyman
Boy in Theater…Mario Bosco
Bryant Gumbel…Himself
T.V. Reporter…Janet Speck
Stunt Co-ordinator…Conrad E. Palmisano
James Woods’ Stunt Double…Steven Lambert
Michael J. Fox’s Stunt Double…Charles Croughwell
Stunt Crew…George Aguilar, Daniel Aiello III, Bruce Barbour, Dana Bertoletic, Paul R. Bucosi, Peter Bucossi, Blaise Corrigan (uncredited), Kerrie Cullen, Norman I. Douglass, Nancy Ellen, C.J. Evans, Frank Ferrara, Dick Hancock, Gene Harrison, Don Hewitt, Jary Hewitt, Ken Kenski, Barbara Anne Klein, Conan Lee, Hugh A. O’Brien, Diane Peterson, Richard Piomonti, Debby Lynn Ross, Rick Seaman, Manny Snyders, Lawrence Tan, Lori M. Van der Veer (uncredited), Harry Wowchuk



Mama Said Knock You Out…J.T. Smith, M. Williams, Bobby ‘Bobcat’ Ervin…LL Cool J
La mare a (karnaval)…Tabou Combo…Cuco Valoy
Theme from the Today Show…John Williams…Conductor: John Williams
Murdergram (live at Rapmania)…M. Williams, J.T. Smith…LL Cool J
This Neighborhood…Simon Stokes, Chris Pinnick…Simon Stokes
El Milloncito…Cuco Valoy, Jose Pena Suazo…Cuco Valoy
Runaround…Sue Ernest Maresca, Dion DiMucci…Dion
Big Girls Don’t Cry…Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe…Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Fightin’ Boogie…Harry Garfield…Pack and Plow



MTV Movie Awards, 1992

NOMINEE: The Hard Way
CATEGORY: Best Action Sequence; Opening Car Chase
RESULT: Nominated



Webmaster’s Film Review

Disclaimer: These views are the opinions of the Webmaster only, unless otherwise noted.

The Hard Way, released on March 8, 1991, is a unique film in Michael J. Fox’s career for a couple of reasons. First, it is his only full-blown action film (live-action) and second, he’s not really the hero of the movie. In this early 90′s film, that feels more like a mid-to-late 80′s film, Michael J. Fox portrays a whiny, self-absorbed, rich, spoiled brat actor. The true hero of this flick is portrayed by the ever-intense James Woods.

However, it is Michael J. Fox’s charm and wit that makes his character so likable, and hence, causes him to steal almost every scene that he’s in. It has always been one of Michael J. Fox’s greatest talents to take a character that is morally reprehensible, or just down-right idiotic, and make him a guy that you care for and even identify with. Even though Nick Lang has everything, or can get anything, that anyone could ask for, the audience is apt to feel sympathetic towards his plight of wanting to be taken seriously as an actor.

This trait is interesting, as it is a shared plight in Michael J. Fox’s own career. It is admirable that he was willing to poke a little fun at his own public image and the fact that he was, himself, the popular movie star wanting to be taken more seriously by taking on more gritty, realistic roles. (Light of Day, Casualties of War)

The only major complaint I have with this film is the fact that the love interest for John Moss feels like it was shoe-horned into the picture and feels very out of place. Perhaps the producers felt that the character of John Moss needed to be toned down a bit, to be shown to posses a soft side. However, the scenes with Susan just slow down the picture. It is hard to feel anything for this character who isn’t given enough screen time to develop into a real personality. She’s basically a characterless plot device to lend more emotional weight to the climactic ending of the film.

The best performance in this film is given by James Woods. His specialty has always been hard-edged, overly intense characters that cause the audience to believe that this guy really cares about what he is doing, whether it be chasing serial killers in The Hard Way, hunting down vampires in John Carpenter’s Vampires or persecuting Jodi Foster in Contact.

The Hard Way follows a brief period in the lives of two men who couldn’t possibly be more opposite. One, a hard-boiled cop after a manical serial killer loose in New York and the other, a pompous over-rated actor who wants to be taken more seriously. Their lives converge when the actor, Nick Lang, happens to see John Moss, the cop, on television and decides that he is the man to teach Nick Lang how to be a tough policeman, which happens to be very much like a role that he desires – but is currently being offered to Mel Gibson. (It must be a ‘butt movie.’)

Lang weasels his way into John Moss’ life, despite Moss’ vehement protests, and makes his life miserable, fowling up his investigations and basically getting in Moss’ way in every aspect of his life.

The comedic tension between Lang and Moss is often hilarious and watching Fox and Woods play off each other is worth the price of admission – or, at this late date, the price of renting or buying the DVD. If you want to know if they catch they killer and if John Moss gets the girl, you won’t find out here (I’m not going to give it away) but since this is a pretty typical Hollywood movie, I think you can guess.

Why to watch this movie: Michael J. Fox always gives a spirited performance, no matter how formulaic the material happens to be, and this movie is as formulaic as they come. James Woods gives an almost flawless performance as the hard-boiled cop with a soft side. Stephen Lang gives a truly chilling performance as the vigilant vigilante, The Party Crasher. Christina Ricci fans will also enjoy her small part as Susan’s antagonistic daughter.

When to watch this movie: When you’re in the mood for a buddy-cop-action-comedy film — much like the Rush Hour films without the martial arts.


When are you going to get me something with a little relevance, a little social conscience; something that doesn’t have a goddam roman numeral in the title?! You ever hear of “Hamlet III”, “Midsummer Night’s IV”?They made “Henry V”! It won awards for that little scottish guy!

–Nick and Angie

Hey, look at this. they got my billboard across the street.
Good. You’ll be sleeping close to the one you love.

–Nick and Detective Moss

I DON’T WANT YOU INSIDE MY SKIN, YOU UNDERSTAND? It’s private! What’s in there belongs to me! You’re not gonna learn what it means to be a cop by eating hot dogs and picking your teeth and asking stupid questions. We live this job. It’s something we are, not something we do! Every time a cop walks up to a car and has to give a speeding ticket, he knows he may have to kill someone or be killed himself. That’s not something you step into by strapping on a rubber gun and riding around all day. You get to go back to your million dollar beach house and your bimbos and your blow jobs and you get 17 takes to get it right. We get one take. It lasts our whole lives. We mess it up and we’re dead.

–Detective John Moss

Entertainment References (Link to IMDB)

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