This sequel picks up some time after the events of the original film and finds JW (Kinnaman) in jail with Mrado (Mrsic), while Jorge (Verela) and Mahmoud (Fares) have seemingly not learnt their lesson and are still up to no good.
Although directorial duties have changed this time, the film wisely sticks with the same visual style as the original and as a result looks fantastic from start to finish. The shaky cam won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it does provide some visceral moments throughout. The score as well shares similarities and once again captures the mood perfectly. Thankfully though, it’s not just a rerun of the original and tries to something different.
The jail-based friendship is an intriguing turn of events and certainly keeps things feeling fresh; having said that, it would have been nice to see what led to this friendship as taking into account previous events there is slim chance they would have been "bezzies" from the get go. But the two share decent chemistry and make for an entertaining watch.
There is a struggle with the rest of the characters, though. Both Jorge and Mahmoud, who were minor characters first time around, get a lot more screen time here. Indeed, the focus is as much on them as it is on JW. However, whereas JW was an interesting conflicted character, it’s difficult to engage with the others because they are painted (until too late in the film) as remorseless bastards who you just cannot root for. Even JW himself proves a hard pill to swallow this time out - he seems so reticent and remorseful, having ended up in jail, that you will have trouble believing he is in such a rush to jump back into a life of crime. It really is a shame that the characters prove so hard to engage with, because once again the performances are spot on. Kinnaman again shows that he will one day be a much bigger star and Mrsic does his best to steal the show again. The supporting cast are also excellent throughout, so it’s a shame the writing doesn’t live up to the actors.
Story-wise, things are a little better, with three separate threads that intertwine and lead to an explosive conclusion. While not original, it’s handled well enough and certainly keeps you engaged right until the end. It does, however, feel in a rush to get there though - 90 minutes is short for this kind of crime epic, and you can’t help but feel the pay-off would be more satisfying if the build-up had been a little longer.
Hard To Kill is a decent genre effort and worthy sequel that will appeal to fans of the superior original. Here’s hoping that the forthcoming Life Deluxe will deliver on the series' initial promise.