The Hard Way is an early 90s buddy-cop flick starring James Woods, Michael J. Fox, Delroy Lindo, Stephen Lang, LL Cool J, Mary Mara, Annabella Sciorra, and a very young Christina Ricci.
John Moss (Woods) is on the trail of a serial killer known only as the Party Crasher (Lang), who phones the police before shooting a seemingly random victim. Despite this not being the best MO for remaining undetected, he's still on the loose. Moss chases him down, but gets injured in the process. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, bubble-gum action star Nick Lang (Fox) has set his sights on a dramatic role in a police flick, and, seeing Moss on TV, decides that if he can spend the week with Moss and learn about being a cop, he can nail the part.
Moss, of course, refuses, but his starstruck boss (Lindo) insists, and soon Nick is moving in with Moss, tagging along on busts and dates with John's would-be girlfriend, Susan (Sciorra) and her daughter (Ricci), and generally making an ass of himself. Eventually, Moss tricks Lang into thinking he's killed an innocent man. Lang, initially getting on a plane, has an attack of conscience, returns to discover it was a ruse, confronts John, and eventually ends up helping him catch the Party Crasher and save Susan.
I actually really like this movie. Yes, it's a by-the-numbers 90s cop movie action-comedy. Yes, Sciorra plays Girlfriend, and the movie flunks the Bechdel with flying colors. Yes, it's violent and utterly unrealistic, and there are plot holes you could drive a Mac truck through (the stakeout to catch the Party Crasher, for instance - they controlled the meet, so why meet in a garage near gas pumps? Why not put an officer in the van? And most important, why hand the killer a loaded gun?). But Fox, Woods, and even Sciorra bring some nuance to their characters that make them, if not believable, then likable. Plus, the two principals have a character arc (Sciorra really doesn't, but again, Girlfriend - she also gets damseled in the last scene and does almost nothing useful), and that's nice to see. The dialog is snappy and often funny, and there are some nice little jabs at Hollywood and the cop genre. Now, they could have made the movie more realistic and taken even more jabs, but honestly, I like it like it is.
My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high
Next up: Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle