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The Hard Way

The Hard Way PosterSetting: New York City, New York, USA

The film opens on a New York City street at night where a street festival is taking place. After a close-up of a statue of George M. Cohan, the camera pans to a huge 3D billboard being built on Times Square. The billboard is for Nick Lang’s newest picture, Smoking Gun II.

We see a white-haired man driving a van through the festival, almost hitting someone. When he finally stops, he gets out of his van and walks briskly, cocking a gun that has obviously been altered from it’s original design. He goes into a phone booth and makes a 911 call. When it is answered, he says, “Hello there. It’s me…again. Well, what can I say? I’m about to crash another par-tay.”

We cut to see our hero and his partner driving through New York City like a maniac. He’s trying to get to a date for which he is late.

And here is where we get the background on our hero. In a hurried, manic rush he explains the following to his partner, who no doubt already knows all of this information. But we don’t, so he’s not interrupted: John Moss has been divorced. Susan (his date) is the first woman who has gone out with him more than twice since his divorce. He really doesn’t want to mess things up with Susan and has even quit smoking for her. He’s quite an ‘intense’ character. (Are you surprised? It’s James Woods, for crying out loud.)

On his way to his date, he has to stop and wait for a piece of the Nick Lang billboard to me moved out of the way. He “hates that guy.”

A message comes in over the police scanner stating that the Party Crasher is about to strike again. Moss turns the car to rush to the phone booth from which the Party Crasher made his call.

At the nearby club, the Party Crasher spies on a guy selling drugs to a young girl. He catches the man’s eye and makes a gun symbol with his fingers. The man turns and starts to run.

Moss and his partner arrive at the phone booth, which is next to the club. They talk about how the Party Crasher likes to call the police just before he’s about to take someone out.

They rush into the club. Moss quickly scans the place and he and the Party Crasher spot each other at the same instant. The Party Crasher pulls out his gun and sets his laser sight on Moss’ forehead. However, he quickly moves and shoots the drug dealer he spotted earlier. Moss pulls out his gun but can’t shoot because of all the civilians who are panicking around him.

The Party Crasher makes his way out of the club, Moss doing his best to follow, fighting the fleeing crowd. The Party Crasher gets out first, laughing, but quickly panics when he sees that his van is being towed away. Just as quickly, he runs to the tow truck and steals it. Moss jumps onto the side just as the Party Crasher is peeling away.

As the Party Crasher drives maniacally down the New York streets, Moss holds on for his life, struggling with the Party Crasher at the same time. The Party Crasher seems to be enjoying this episode. Seeing the police car that is chasing them, he releases his van from the tow truck, sending it crashing back into the cop car.

The Party Crasher drives back into Times Square. Moss is still hanging on. However, he is knocked away from the van by the huge cigarette that is to be lifted to the Nick Lang 3D billboard. The Party Crasher drives away, escaping incarceration once again.

Moss, bruised and bleeding but still alive, looks up at the 3D billboard and reiterates: “I hate that guy.”

We cut to a trailer of Smoking Gunn II which is very Indiana Jones-ish. When the trailer is almost finished, a crystal People’s Choice Award is chucked into the screen, breaking the TV picture to pieces.

The chucker of the award is Nick Lang himself, star of the Smoking Gunn films. He hates his films and complains quite loudly (and quite childishly) to his agent, Angie. He wants to star in a film with some substance and something without a roman numeral in the title.

As Nick and Angie ‘discuss’ Nick’s career, they move about his posh Hollywood mansion. It’s extremely white and the pool has many bikini-clad women lounging beside it.

Angie argues with Nick, saying that his films, however shallow they may be, have brought in billions for the studio. Nick is unimpressed. What he wants is a part in an upcoming Cop film, the role of Ray Casanova. He’s wants the part because Casanova is real.

Angie tells him that his public doesn’t want to see him in ‘real’ roles. They like to see him in adventure and fantastic roles. And besides, they want Mel Gibson for the Cop role. Nick’s response is, “Is it about asses? Is it a butt movie?”

They have made their way upstairs into a room filled only with pinball machines and a television set. Nick has his mind made up. He’s going to get the part of Ray Casanova and he knows how he’s going to get the part. He’s going to go to New York and observe a real cop, a tough cop that he had seen on a recent television news story…John Moss, NYPD.

Back in New York, Moss is already refusing the assignment. However his Captain is making it mandatory. Moss has been taken off of the Party Crasher case and if it weren’t for the Nick Lang assignment, he’d be on sick leave from the force. Moss makes it clear that he’s not happy about it and that he feels that he can not just leave the Party Crasher case – not when the Crasher has killed seven people, four right in front of the cops. The Captain insists once again and tells Moss that no one is to know that ‘Ray Casanova’ is really Nick Lang. He is to take Lang on routine cases and to stay away from any action. Moss leaves the office, obviously quite unhappy.

Moss goes downstairs and goes straight to the cigarette machine. His girlfriend, Susan, comes into the station and catches John beating up the cigarette machine which has refused to give him any cigarettes. When John sees Susan, he awkwardly tries to cover.

Susan has come to say that she understands why John stood her up the night before-she had seen what had happened with the Party Crasher on the news. She had tried to call him but couldn’t because her daughter, Bonnie, had ‘lost’ his phone number. She asks him out for dinner for that night, turning it around and making it seem like he asked. As she leaves the station, John’s pals pick on him, making kissy faces and noises.

Moss heads down the hallway and bumps into a long haired, sunglass-bespeckled, mustached guy who is trying to look tough. It’s Nick Lang. He introduces himself to Moss, who turns and starts walking the other way. Nick follows, talking the whole way. People mention that ‘Casanova’ looks like Nick Lang, only shorter.

When they reach the bathroom, Moss rips off Lang’s obviously fake mustache. Lang is undaunted and keeps babbling. “It’s like a movie, it’s so real.” Moss ignores him and leaves the bathroom, Lang on his heels.

Moss rushes to Captain Brix’s office, shutting the door to keep Lang out. Moss refuses to do the assignment. “Not if you tied my tongue to your tailpipe and drove me 80 miles an hour naked across a field of broken glass.” The Captain calmly restates that Moss has no choice but becomes a bit irked when Moss informs him that Lang wants to carry a weapon. The Captain demands that Lang get into his office.

When Nick does come in, the Captain gets a bit star-struck and even asks for his autograph.

Moss is disgusted and leaves the office. One of his fellow officers calls him to his desk and updates him on the Party Crasher case. They recognize that the Party Crasher’s custom gun has come from the same person that makes guns for a gang known as “The Dead Romeos.”

Captain Brix notices this exchange. Moss covers, clumsily, and gets out of there quickly, Nick Lang still in tow.

As they drive, Nick notices that Moss isn’t happy and starts flattering him, as if this will help. “You’re a Yoda among cops.” Moss in unimpressed. Moss tries to get rid of Nick, saying that he’ll take him to his hotel and pick him up later. Nick then informs him that arrangements have been made that he will be staying with Moss.

Moss pulls over quickly and gets into Nick’s face, telling him that he doesn’t have time to be baby-sitting a spoiled movie star; that he has a maniac killer out there to track down and stop. At first Nick looks scared and intimidated, but then asks that John repeat that so that he can write it down in his notebook. Moss gets frustrated and starts driving once again.

Moss drives them down to the seedy side of the town. Moss pulls out his gun and checks it. Lang pulls out his rubber gun (that squeaks) and Moss just looks at him, disgusted. They get out of the car and Moss gets a bat out of his trunk. He demands that Lang wait with the car.

Moss goes across the street into a seemingly condemned building. Lang looks around the neighborhood, through his ‘camera’ hands. Moss busts into the Dead Romeo’s hangout and starts demanding to know where they get their guns made. They barely acknowledge him, watching TV. The Smoking Gunn II trailer begins to play and one of the gang mentions that they like Nick Lang. Moss puts his baseball bat through the screen, which actually gets the boys’ attention.

Outside, Lang meets another local gang.

Inside, after some more intimidation, one of the gang members gives Moss the information that he wanted. They get their guns from a man named Witherspoon who works out of a van.

Just then, Nick comes running up the stairs, exclaiming over the gang outside. Moss looks rather annoyed, but the other gang starts shooting up the Dead Romeo’s hideout. Nick’s rather annoyed that one of his brown contacts has fallen out.

After it’s all over, Moss is rather ticked at Nick because he had to call in the incident to the station and he wasn’t supposed to have Nick in the middle of a gang war. Also, while Nick was running inside, their car was stripped, including Nick’s belongings. Nick spots his stuff in a nearby bar and goes inside to get it. He exits the bar via the plate glass window.

Moss gets a new car from the impound; a pimp-mobile. Still tagging along, Nick orders a ‘frog-dog’ imitating Moss. While they’re waiting, John calls Susan’s apartment but Susan’s daughter answers the phone. She starts asking who he is, going through a long list of men’s names. She finally hangs up on him, knowing exactly who is calling.

Nick, overhearing all of this, suggests to John that he invite Bonnie out with them on his and Susan’s next date. John tells him to butt out. They start to eat their ‘frog dogs.’

Lang starts imitating Moss’ physical mannerisms which causes Moss to demand that he stop. Lang finally does stop, and instead asks about the Party Crasher. He also asks how it feels to kill someone. When Moss won’t answer him, Lang asks him to open up and let him inside his skin.

Moss explodes and gives an impassioned speech about what it is to be a cop, about how it isn’t a role he plays, it’s a life he leads, facing the possibility of death everyday.

Lang is pretty impressed and asks that Moss repeat his speech into his tape recorder. Moss takes the recorder and tosses it.

At that moment, Moss is notified over the scanner that another homicide has occurred with the Party Crasher’s M.O. They arrive on the crime scene to find the dead guy outside on a bench. Lang appears a bit queasy upon seeing the corpse.

Nick says that he can’t believe that the Party Crasher would kill in broad daylight. Moss tells him that the Party Crasher is like Lang; a big hambone. Lang returns with the fact that there’s one thing that a big hambone hates: a bad review.

Moss, who has previously shunned the press and given them a hard time, now uses the press to his advantage and gives an interview stating that he doesn’t believe that the Party Crasher is a man; he thinks the Party Crasher is a gutless, pathetic pervert.

The Party Crasher sees this interview on TV and it doesn’t settle too well with him.

After getting Nick some new clothes, he and Moss go to Moss’ apartment which is surprisingly (to Nick, anyway) neat. Moss informs him that not all cops are slobs. As he gets ready for his date, Nick looks around his apartment. He finds a gun and starts playing with it in a mirror.

John actually makes it to his date and finds that Bonnie has joined him and Susan. She sits between them, making a point to keep them physically apart.

Nick just happens to show up and of course Bonnie instantly loves him, saying that he looks like Nick Lang. She goes on to explain that she liked Nick Lang when she was little, but now she prefers Mel Gibson. John smiles menacingly at Lang and states that he loves Mel Gibson.

Bonnie invites Nick to eat with them, and despite John’s objections, he sits and stays.

Meanwhile, the Party Crasher is at home, playing video games and obsessing over John Moss.

Back at the restaurant, things are going…well, they’re going. A group of half-drunk jerks come in and take the table next to John’s party and start cursing and talking crudely. John politely asks them to stop, that there is a woman and a child present. They make a rude comment in return. John insists that they talk more appropriately. When they get even worse, John gets up and violently arrests them. Bonnie finds it amusing but Susan is quite upset and asks Nick to take her and Bonnie home.

After Nick takes them home, he finds John alone at a bar. Nick tries to talk to him about Susan, but John wants no advice from Nick Lang. However, Nick finally convinces John to do some role-playing and pretend that he is Susan. John finds the whole thing stupid, but finally does it, getting into it. (James Woods is actually very good in this scene and Michael J. Fox sounds very much like Arnold Horshack.)

The next morning, Nick wakes up, handcuffed to his bed. He doesn’t seem too happy about it.

At a park, Moss is waiting to speak to Witherspoon, the gun-maker that the Dead Romeos told Moss about. To pass the time, he defaces some Smoking Gunn II promotional posters that are on a fence.

When Moss finally gets to talk to Witherspoon, he has to convince him that he’s sincere and does so by telling him about his troubles with Nick.

Back at Moss’ apartment, Susan calls and asks Nick out to lunch.

Moss asks Witherspoon for information about the Party Crasher. Witherspoon, realizing that the Party Crasher isn’t just a gun collector, agrees to help Moss find him.

At lunch, Susan talks to Nick about John. She likes him but is unsure about how he feels about her. Nick assures her that John feels the same way.

As Nick escorts Susan home, a robbery occurs on the subway. Susan insists that Ray (Nick) take care of the problem. When the gang leader pulls out a gun, everyone on the subway train pulls out their gun. Almost everyone has their own gun…except Nick who only has his squeaky toy.

The incident moves out of the train into the station with Nick trying to take care of this problem as the policeman that Susan thinks he is. The real cops arrive, including Moss. Moss sees that Susan and Nick are together and assumes that there is something going on between them.

Moss takes care of the gang leader, risking his life to do so.

Captain Brix agrees to use Moss’ information that he got from Witherspoon, but refuses to let Moss act on it as long as Nick Lang is still in town.

That night, Lang goes with Moss on routine patrol duty. Moss assures Lang that he won’t get involved in the Party Crasher case, no matter what. However, a call from the Party Crasher is called in and Moss decides to go anyway. When they arrive at the scene, it’s dark and there is no back-up. Moss decides to go in and gives Lang a loaded gun, telling him that if he’s going to get involved he should at least have something to protect himself with.

Moss tells Lang to stay in the car and watch for the Party Crasher. Other than that, he is to do nothing.

Of course, Lang follows Moss slowly. Lang hears Moss yell, “Don’t move! Police!” and some gunshots. Someone rushes out of the building straight at Lang, and he shoots him.

Moss comes rushing out and sees what Nick has done. The man is dead. Moss informs Nick that the man was an innocent bystander.

Nick starts to panic. Moss explains that they can’t let anyone know what has happened-that they would both be locked up. They agree that Moss will take the blame for the accidental shooting and that Nick was never there.

The next day, Moss puts Nick on a plane back to Los Angeles. Lang offers any assistance that he can give to help Moss with the impending investigation but Moss is emphatic that Lang never contact him again, that it would look suspicious. Nick hugs Moss and goes to his gate. However, he doesn’t get on the plane. He goes back to the police station, determined that Moss is not going to take the fall for his mistake.

As he enters, he stops to hear Moss talking with his fellow officers. He overhears about how Moss got rid of Lang by setting up a phony crime scene. The man that Nick ‘killed’ is right there, helping out with the story telling. Someone finally notices Nick and they start laughing at him. Nick walks away, looking quite angry.

Moss is officially back on the Party Crasher case. He and his partner are staking out the location of the gun sell that Witherspoon agreed to help with. The Party Crasher shows up, half an hour late.

After the Party Crasher gets his gun, he knocks out Witherspoon with it. He yells to Moss, knowing he’s there, and tells him to come out or he’ll kill Witherspoon.

Moss does come out of the car, despite his partners’ objections. The Party Crasher explains to him that they’re on the same side. He’s taking out the criminals, the pimps, the drug dealers. Any innocents slain in the crossfire were sacrificial pawns, like chess.

The Party Crasher kills Witherspoon and takes off in his van, igniting all the gas he just spilled while talking to Moss. Moss runs to his car and he and his partner barely make it out of the garage before it blows.

The Party Crasher totals the van he’s driving and starts running on foot. Moss starts after him, also on foot and follows him into a movie house that happens to be playing Smoking Gunn II.

Nick Lang, who has been driving around in a cop car, still very angry, has heard what’s going on and arrives just in time to see Moss running into the theater. He gets out of the car and follows him inside.

When Moss sees Nick Lang on the theater screen, he has to stop and groan.

All three men are inside the theater now, Moss on the ground floor and Lang and the Party Crasher in the balcony. Lang sees that the Party Crasher is aiming his gun at Moss’s head and yells a warning to Moss. The Party Crasher shoots at Lang and then at Moss, missing both of them but hitting the movie goers.

One lone kid stays in the theater, watching the screen alternately with the live action going on around him. The climax of the film is happening on the screen and as Joe Gunn, from the film, swings across the screen on a vine, Nick Lang swings across the screen on a curtain.

Finally, Moss shoots at the Party Crasher and hits him in the shoulder, taking him down. The paramedics arrive and take him away.

Nick, who is waiting for Moss to finish, immediately hits him and keeps on doing so, yelling at him for what he did to him. Moss explains that he did it so that Lang would know how it feels to kill someone; something he had expressed interest in on his first day out with Moss. Lang retaliates saying that he and Susan wanted to like him but that John wouldn’t allow it. He leaves, giving Moss one more punch.

Meanwhile, outside, the Party Crasher wakes up, kills the paramedics, and gets away.

Nick, still pretty pissed, gets into his borrowed police car and takes off. Guess who’s hitching a ride? The Party Crasher puts a gun to Nick’s head and tells him to keep driving. Nick, no longer wanting to put up with this anymore, uses DeNiro’s famous, “you talkin’ to me?’ line and proceeds to drive like a madman, much like John Moss. Over and over again we hear the Party Crasher say, “Pull over” followed by Nick Lang saying, more maniacally each time, “Drop the gun!”

Eventually, the inevitable car crash occurs and it’s pretty cool.

Amazingly, no one is dead and Nick calls in his capture. The Party Crasher sits up and says, “That was a riveting performance.” He then bashes Nick’s face into the steering wheel (much like Marty McFly in Back to the Future) and then says, “I hate your movies.”

The Party Crasher escapes.

Susan rushes into John’s apartment, demanding an explanation about Nick. John tries to open up and talk to her and somewhat succeeds. However, she tells him that it can’t work between them-because he’s a cop and that it would be unfair to Bonnie.

John’s response is, “Yeah, I understand. Sure. Cops are too angry, too violent, too risky to care about, until you need one, then-then we’re the second coming, aren’t we?”

Susan leaves. As she steps into the elevator, we see that the Party Crasher is already in the elevator.

John answers the knocking on his door. It’s Nick. Nick claims that the Party Crasher is going to be coming for John, to close up the third act. Either that, or someone close to him. John says that Susan just left, but Nick tells him that he didn’t see her in the elevator or the lobby.

Just then, the phone rings. It’s the Party Crasher. He tells John, “I’m on top of the world with your buddy Nick Lang.” John and Nick head straight for the 3D billboard on Times Square. The street dancers are back.

Moss goes to the top of the billboard, searching for Susan and the Party Crasher. He drops his gun as steam blows in his face. The Party Crasher suddenly joins him and forces him out onto the 3D head. Susan is already outside on the hat brim of the billboard. John goes toward her but ends up dangling from the brim himself.

(The music in this section is a dissonant version of Leonard Bernstein’s “New York, New York” from On the Town.)

The Party Crasher now has Moss’ gun. However, Nick shows up and kicks it out of his hand, imitating Bruce Lee. A fight ensues, but Nick seems to be losing. He comes back, in that old movie style, and pushes the Party Crasher onto a pulley. But, he gets away and pushes all three of them back outside onto the billboard.

Susan slides off the hat brim and lands on the cigarette. Nick holds onto the door so that the Party Crasher can’t get outside with them. Moss bursts inside to get the Party Crasher, leaving Nick to save Susan-the cigarette she’s hanging onto is breaking.

The Party Crasher now has a gun again.

Nick jumps onto the hand holding the cigarette and pulls Susan to safety just as the cigarette breaks and falls into the street.

Moss jumps the Party Crasher who drops the gun onto the hat brim.

Moss and the Party Crasher fight, trying not to fall off the billboard at the same time. The Party Crasher finally gets the gun and stands up, pointing the gun right at Moss’ head, point blank. But Nick is right there and whacks the Party Crasher with a piece of wood. The Party Crasher turns around and says, “This isn’t the movies, stupid.” He shoots him in the shoulder.

Moss then throws the Party Crasher over the side of the billboard. He falls into a glass box that is down on the street, part of the festivities. This time, he doesn’t get up and run away.

Moss crawls over to Nick, who is bleeding and in a lot of pain, and says,”Why did you come back here? Why did I ever let you up here in the first place?”

“I had to get the part. It’s a great part. Think I would’ve got it?”

“Yeah pal. I think you would’ve nailed it.”

“Oh man, this is too real!”

Back up arrives on the scene.

Of course, Nick pulls through and of course Nick gets the part of Ray Casanova. The entire precinct is invited to the film premiere. Apparently, John and Susan are married, evident by the wedding bands that they are both wearing. John gets a little peeved that he hears his own words coming from Nick’s character, but everyone shushes him.

“Would you shut up, Moss. We’re trying to watch the end credits.”

The End

–Brandi M. Mills

All original text © Copyright by Brandi M. Mills