Hard to Kill [1990]

With a reported budget of $172 million, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines starts in high gear and never slows down. The apocalyptic "Judgment Day" of T2 was never prevented, only postponed: John Connor (Nick Stahl, replacing T2's Edward Furlong), now 22 and disconnected from society, is being pursued yet again, this time by the advanced T-X, a sleek "Terminatrix" (coldly expressionless Kristanna Loken) programmed to stop Connor from becoming the savior of humankind. Originally programmed as an assassin, a disadvantaged T-101 cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger, bidding fond farewell to his signature role) arrives from the future to join Connor and his old acquaintance Kate (Claire Danes) in thwarting the T-X's relentless pursuit. The plot presents a logical fulfillment of T2 prophesy, disposing of Connor's mother (Linda Hamilton is sorely missed) while computer-driven machines assume control, launching a nuclear nightmare that Connor must survive. With Breakdown and U-571 serving as worthy rehearsals for this cautionary epic of mass destruction, director Jonathan Mostow wisely avoids any stylistic connection to James Cameron's Terminator classics; instead he's crafted a fun, exciting popcorn thriller, humorous and yet still effectively nihilistic, and comparable to Jurassic Park III in returning the Terminator franchise to its potent B-movie roots. --Jeff Shannon After making his action-hero debut in 1988's Above the Law, Steven Seagal followed up with this typically formulaic action thriller, in which the ponytailed crime fighter is shot full of bullets and left for dead after he uncovers a powerful circle of corrupt politicians. After seven years in a coma, he returns to consciousness and is nursed back to health by--surprise, surprise!--a gorgeous woman, played by Seagal's then wife Kelly ("don't hate me because I'm beautiful") LeBrock. Once in peak condition, snarlin' Steve sets out to satisfy his hearty appetite for revenge, and the bone-crunching action kicks into high gear with the requisite chases, hand-to-hand combat, and escalating body count. This is one of Seagal's best vehicles, establishing the star's screen persona before it grew stale in later films. --Jeff Shannon

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