Every once in a while a film comes along that demonstrates just how magical the art of filmmaking is. How many elements have to align: how the combination of talent, inspiration and that intangible extra something have to come together to create thrills and joy for the audience. Hard Kill demonstrates all of this by being so screamingly, wearyingly terrible that it’s a masterclass in how not to make cinema.
It starts inauspiciously enough, with an actress (I use the term loosely – Lala Kent, a reality TV star) waiting around at night in some dodgy locale (New York, 11pm, the screen tells us somewhat cagily). She is looking Concerned with a capital C, maybe at the thought of trying to emote with that much filler in her face. That is not bitchiness, it’s exasperation. It’s bad enough that reality TV and social media are awash with surgery masquerading as true beauty to young women, but that ideal moving to mainstream cinema is concerning. Luckily, it seems unlikely many people will see this. Incidentally, the men in the film are allowed their original faces with natural signs of ageing and expression.
Anyway, a dodgy-looking man arrives and takes some tech off her. “So small and yet so powerful,” he muses. So few words and yet so trite. Next, we see Jesse Metcalfe of Desperate Housewives fame (remember him?) being really, really ridiculously good looking. He plays mercenary Derek Miller, hired by tech billionaire Donovan Chalmers (Bruce Willis), who wants his AI back. Chalmers names the dodgy man as “The Pardoner” and notes that his acquisition of the AI tech “could be bad… bad for everyone.” Willis looks bored the whole way through, less phoning it in than leaving an out-of-office email.
There may or may not be a plot, but with dialogue so clunky it’s clanging out of the speakers like nuts and bolts in a sack, it seems irrelevant. The script seems suspiciously like it may have been written by an AI programme that has been built to study all of Steven Seagal’s movies for notes and no longer wants to exist. Never mind “The Pardoner”, what about “The Scriptwriter”? He’s a far more malevolent presence looming over this than “The Pardoner” could ever hope to be.
The acting employs the rare “trying to remember my lines” technique. This subscribes to the notion that talking. Very. Slowly. And. Haltingly. Conveys. Emotion. Drama. And. Gravitas. All it does is prolong the misery for them and us. Unintentionally hilarious moments pop up. “I have an idea!” cries Ava (Kent). We then cut to her squeaking some squares and a cross onto paper with a dry Sharpie. Even the pen doesn’t want to be in this film. As for the location, literally no expense was spent. The makeup trying to be dirt on their faces also can’t really be arsed to be there, dabbed like fake beards on to the women’s chins.
It is rare to encounter a film as purely, exuberantly incompetent as this. It’s been described as a B movie, but that is an insult to the venerable tradition of the fun, kitsch genre. This is no B movie, it is a Y movie – as in, Why was this greenlit? It is also a W movie, for Who in the hell would voluntarily watch this? and an H movie, for Haven’t we suffered enough already this year?
Hard Kill is released digitally on demand on 14th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for Hard Kill here: