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Hard Hunted (1993)

Plot: a nuclear trigger is stolen. LETHAL Ladies are on the case.

After the strange detours and diversions that were the more adventure-oriented Savage Beach (1989) and the incredibly cynical Do Or Die (1991) Hawaiian low-budget action king Andy Sidaris restored the franchise to its former glory with Hard Hunted. Franchise mascot Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez and Do Or Die (1991) co-stars Carolyn Liu and Mika Quintard all make their return in the second episode of the Kane trilogy. Hard Hunted is in many ways vintage Sidaris with gorgeous Hawaii locations and a multitude of bodacious top-heavy women in candy-colored bikinis and swimwear. In a first for the series there’s actual inter-episode continuity with Hard Hunted building on the plot that Do Or Die (1991) took some pains to establish. Andy Sidaris never aimed for high art with the LETHAL Ladies franchise, and Hard Hunted puts the fun back in funbags, and does so with a vengeance. Stuff blows up real good, there are probably more naked breasts per capita than in any installment before or since, and Cynthia Brimhall - the multi-talented wonder, until now a special guest of sorts - is elevated to a regular cast member. Boobs, babes, and bombs is the name of the game; some bigger than others. In other words, Hard Hunted goes the distance…

That deviled Masakana 'Kane' Kaneshiro - the Asian crimelord that had an earlier run-in with the LETHAL Ladies and eluded capture - has smuggled the Klystron Relay, a nuclear trigger, with intention of selling it to a terrorist in the Middle East. Kaneshiro has adopted the identity of Caucasian British Kane Martin (Geoffrey Moore, as R.J. Moore). Working deep undercover, both literal and figurative, and posing as his lover, is Agency informant Silk (Carolyn Liu). Meanwhile in Sedona, Arizona Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez) are enjoying a well-deserved vacation after their latest brush with death. That vacation is abruptly cut short when Silk is brutally murdered and the two, unwittingly or otherwise, come in possession of a mysterious jade Buddha figurine. Before they very well know it the agents have become hunted, you could say Hard Hunted, by helicopter-flying madman Raven (Al Leong) and his assassin squad.

In a daring escape Donna crashlands on the nearby Lason island (complete with plot-convenient amnesia) and promptly The Agency mounts two rescues parties. Edy Stark (Cynthia Brimhall) has traded in her lounge act at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and has returned to her Edy’s restaurant in Moloka’i. There she provides both food and entertainment as a cover. Accompanying Edy is Agency head Lucas (Tony Peck). Following closely behind are Nicole and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) baring breasts and arms, respectively. Along the way both groups are beset by Wiley (Chu Chu Malave) and Coyote (Richard Cansino), another odiously comic duo of bumbling assassins, while Dona, unbeknowst, has fallen in with mercenaries Pico (Rodrigo Obregón) and Skip (Skip Ward). Back at the Agency safehouse Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) has taken to showing new Agency trainee Becky (Beckie Mullen, as Becky Mullen) the ropes. From the offices of K SXY radio DJ Ava (Ava Cadell) broadcasts encrypted messages to field agents via her talkshow. Since this is the Andy-verse both DJs and staff wear skimpy bikinis at all times and spent inordinate amount of their free time in the nearest hot tub.

On the one hand Hard Hunted reinstates many of the signature scenes and locations that Savage Beach (1989) and Guns (1990) eschewed, but on the other it’s sort of undeniable that fatigue has crept into the series. It’s not nearly as exciting as it ought to be and Sidaris’ workmanlike, routine direction doesn’t help much either. Roberta Vasquez has regained her composure and is back to being her old sizzling self just the way she was when she was first introduced. The additional Asian cast members add greatly to the ethnic diversity although the Andy-verse remains staunchly Caucasian in every other respect. Back again is Al Leong, the lead henchman of big budget 80s action, who could also be seen in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Lethal Weapon (1987), Die Hard (1988), and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). He, of course, was there on Savage Beach (1989).

As per LETHAL Ladies tradition Hard Hunted opens with a musical number from resident sexbomb and perennial LWO favorite Edy, after prior excursions into cajun country and soulful r&b this time Cynthia Brimhall can be heard doing cachi cachi. Notable is that Edy’s has been restored to its former glory (after having been converted to Rocky’s ever so briefly for a single episode) and in between installments Edy has been upgraded to full field agent status. In probably the only bit of retroactive continuity the scene where Silk gives Kane the locator necklace from Do Or Die (1991) is re-shot with Moore in place of Morita. For the second time in a row Kane doesn’t get blown up in a ridiculously big explosion.

Carried over from Do Or Die is the increased profanity and especially “bitch” gets thrown around a lot more than in past episodes. For the majority of the feature Donna is incapitated and a non-participant in any of the plot, in her stead Edy is allowed to step up along with de facto lead Nicole Justin. Sidaris continues with his usual shtick including bumbling cartoonish henchman with Wiley and Coyote, the usage of remote controlled model planes/helicopters, and the usual way for an agent to get out of a bind is to drop one or more articles of clothing, preferably their tops. There’s, of course, an Abilene, and there are enough soft sex scenes to still anybody’s craving. Every lead has at least one topless scene (but usually more too) and nobody films a beautiful lady the way old Andy used to do.

At least Hard Hunted has the decency to introduce a some much-needed new faces. The new Kane is played by Geoffrey Moore, son of the late Roger Moore. Mika Quintard was in Candyman (1992) and her part amounts to little more than cavorting around sexily and getting killed. Replacing the ill-fitting Stephanie Schick of the prior installment is Beckie Mullen. Mullen was part of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling and first appeared in Playboy in December 1990, then again in August 1991, and finally in January 1994 as part of "The Great 40th Anniversary Playmate Search" spread. She can also been seen in the music videos for ‘Poundcake’ by Van Halen and ‘Up All Night’ from Slaughter. Ava Cadell, who once uttered the legendary words “I’m gonna blow their tits off”, appears in a glorified cameo and is of little importance otherwise. That doesn’t mean that Sidaris won’t have her drop top when and where it matters.

Hard Hunted might not be the cream of the crop of the LETHAL Ladies franchise but it reinstates some of the more fun aspects that were somehow lost in Savage Beach (1989) and Do Or Die (1991). The series never recovered from the loss of Hope Marie Carlton and Roberta Vasquez’ substitute character for Taryn does little to help matters in that regard. While the energy level has been higher Hard Hunted overcompensates by an absolute abundance preposterously proportioned Playmates and cartoonishly big-bosomed women with oversized guns. Moreso than any other does Hard Hunted goes out of its way to show its many ladies in various stages of advanced undress. The spy angle still is a mere preamble to have the ladies in as many locations as possible, and the action direction still makes Albert Pyun look like Hong Kong. There are certainties in the Andy-verse and that is no matter how asinine or moronic the script or how convoluted the plot developments; there will be big guns, both literal and figurative. The only depth one is likely to find is in the cleavage of the various ladies, and that’s about it. Hard Hunted, while hardly exemplary, is at least better than its predecessor – which isn’t saying a lot. It does make one long for the simpler times of more enthusiast, fun-loving Sidaris spy-action romps as Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) and Picasso Trigger (1988).