THE HARD Way'' is a buddy-cop movie, but it isn't just another in the genre. This is one of the better ones, maybe the best we have seen since the cycle began.
Michael J. Fox and James Woods star. Woods plays an explosive, seasoned New York cop, and Fox is Nick Lang, a movie actor who is planning to play a cop on the screen and, before he does, wants to live the life of a cop.
Moss (Woods), however, doesn't think this a good idea. He considers the movie actor something less than human and doesn't want him anywhere around. Forced to accept the situation, he tolerates the film star, then plans to rid himself of this encumbrance.
Lang, meanwhile, is monumentally impressed with this hardened lawman. This is the kind of guy who destroys a coin machine when it won't give him what he wants.
There are a number of really smart lines in this film, but you'll want to hear them for yourself. Strangely, the preview audience didn't laugh at some of the better ones.
''The Hard Way'' is one of the fastest-moving buddy-cop movies we've seen. Directed by John Badham, it travels along at high velocity, stopping now and then for a comedy passage.
The only trouble with ''The Hard Way'' is that it should end before it does. Badham, trying to outdo Alfred Hitchcock (''North By Northwest'') stages a finale that is technically impressive but goes on longer than it needs.
The protracted ending also betrays the ''Friday the 13th'' influence and is therefore all too predictable.
All this, however, is easily pardoned. The film is otherwise so good, these excesses may be overlooked.
''The Hard Way'' is a very successful mixture of laugh, thrill and gore, the last of which is minimal. The film also has a lot of things to say about life in New York City and does so, frequently, with unusually good humor. California gets it, too.
''The Hard Way'' opens here today. Fox and Woods are exceptionally well cast.
"The Hard Way" *** A film actor, planning to play a cop on screen, follows a real New York cop around to achieve more understanding of the role.
CAST: Michael J. Fox, James Woods, Annabella Sciorra, Stephen Lang, Christina Ricci
DIRECTOR: John Badham
RATING: R (violence, language)
) RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes