The Hard Way

It’s our old friends the big city serial killer and the cop team of hard-nosed New York veteran (James Woods) and unlikely buddy partner (Michael J. Fox). The twist this time is that Fox is a movie star who specializes in Indiana Jones-type roles, wants to do something serious, and figures he can land a cop part he covets by studying Woods as a role model. There’s a halfhearted effort to satirize both characters in Daniel Pyne and Lem Dobbs’s screenplay, from a story by Dobbs and Michael Kozoll, but any contrast between reality and fantasy gets jettisoned immediately for the sort of slam-bang assault on the senses that director John Badham specializes in; despite the obvious influence of Sullivan’s Travels, this movie doesn’t have the insight or backbone to come within light-years of the Sturges classic. Annabella Sciorra is appealing as Woods’s girlfriend, the two leads do their best with the frenetic material, and the movie’s nonstop aggressiveness helps to glide one over the excess, but the glut of product plugs and cornball, derivative ideasculminating in a forced set piece inspired by the tacky climax of the Marx Brothers’ Love Happyinduces nausea as well. With Stephen Lang, Delroy Lindo, Luis Guzman, and a cameo by Penny Marshall. (JR)

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