Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
There is nothing very remarkable about "The Hard Way," except for its comic energy, but the energy of this movie is everything, reminding me of the wisecracking, hard-boiled screwball comedies of the 1940s, back when they assumed the audience knew how to listen fast. You have to listen really fast during this movie, but what you get is an earful of James Woods in full flower, and Michael J. Fox so hyper he ventilates.
Woods plays the kind of role where, if they hadn't been able to hire him, they would have had to shut down the movie. Who else could play this rapid-fire, angry, violent, foul-mouthed, insecure, sneaky and lying but lovable rascal? He's the toughest cop in New York, the kind who rams his police car into the back of a truck because he's late for a date. I have seen some James Woods movies I didn't enjoy, but it's hard to remember them - the names of few other actors give you more of a guarantee that you will not be bored and will possibly be electrified.
This time he plays John Moss, a homicide detective on the trail of the Party Crasher (Stephen Lang), a mass murderer who specializes in shooting his victims in the middle of discos, usually after inviting the police to attend. Moss almost catches the Crasher as the movie opens - there's a typical Woods scene that has him hanging onto the door of a speeding truck while the Crasher is at the wheel - but after he's nearly killed, his commander takes him off the case.
What's his new assignment? A Hollywood action star named Nick Lang (Michael J. Fox) wants more authenticity in his performances, and when he sees a clip of Woods on the TV news, he knows this is his man. He wants to move into the life of this cop, to follow him everywhere, to study his methods and mannerisms, to live in his apartment and see what makes him tick. He even gets to be friends with his girlfriend (Annabella Sciorra). Woods wants no part of this plan, and informs his commander in blunt and colorful language. The commander tells him it's an order.