A deeply religious Midwestern businessman ventures into the sordid underworld of pornography in California to look for his runaway teenage daughter who is making porno films.
Paul Schrader is usually left off the list when discussing excellent filmmakers and writers, which is unfortunate, because Schrader is one of the greats. He is mostly known for collaborating with Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma. Schrader wrote 'Taxi Driver', 'Obsession', 'Raging Bull', and 'Last Temptation of Christ', while he directed 'American Gigolo' and 'Light of Day' to name only a few films on his impressive resume.
Back in 1979, Schrader was just getting into the directing gig as he took on 'Hardcore', which had similar themes to 'Taxi Driver'. 'Hardcore' is every father's worst nightmare come to life and Schrader certainly captured every bleak moment that tortured his main character Jake Van Dorn, played by the impressive George C. Scott. 'Hardcore' follows a successful businessman from the midwest who is divorced, super religious, and is raising his pre-teen daughter Kristen.
When Kristen doesn't come home from her church trip, he panics of course and hires a California Detective named Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) to help track her. Mast turns up a violent porn film that stars Kristen. Since no other law enforcement are any help to Jake in locating his daughter, and believing she was kidnapped and forced to do these adult films, Jake goes undercover as a porn producer in California to find his daughter with the help of a local prostitute named Niki (Season Hubley).
From here, the two form a relationship as the trek through the very seedy underbelly of snuff films and porn in Southern California. I wouldn't say this film is like the title says, 'Hardcore' in any way, but it certainly gets the message across and shows the emotional distance and crisis that Jake is going through in every scene, where it seems like all routes and hope come to a dead end.
George C. Scott is fantastic in this role and completely immerses himself in this character as we see his struggle to do the right thing, when sometimes he doesn't, and we see it slowly kill him inside. The film jumps to some action cliches here and there, but the meat of the story is the relationship and character arc of Jake and Niki, which steals every brutal scene. 'Hardcore' still holds up today with excellent performances and great writing, and is still a film that will scare parents everywhere.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Hardcore' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Twilight Time and is Region A Locked. There were only 3,000 copies made. The disc is housed in a clear, hard plastic case with an insert that consists of an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film.
'Hardcore' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio from Twilight Time. This was a fairly rough looking film, but Twilight Time has done a great job cleaning up this picture. Detail is sharp and vivid, specifically in closeups in well lit interiors and exteriors. Individual hairs on the actor's faces, wrinkles, and beads of sweat and blood can be seen easily here. Wider shots looks great too, even in darker scenes.
There is really nothing digital about the look of this transfer, as there are varying degrees of grain here, which keeps the filmic look alive throughout. Colors look bold too, but are never overly done. This a very bleak film where the colors aren't as bright as they could be. Black levels are deep for the most part and the skin tones are natural. There were no major problems with any aliasing, banding, or video noise, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with a good DTS-HD MA 1.0 mix that hits all of the right notes, even though it isn't that immersive with surround sound. Sound effects are decent, but never pack a powerful punch like they should. Ambient noises can be heard in the seedy underbelly of Southern California with city life and cars passing by, but it is all fairly soft.
The score by the impressive Jack Nitzsche and the other classic rock songs come through nicely and are the real highlight here, always adding to the somber and haunting mood of the film. Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. There isn't any tin-can moments here. I just wish this had a fuller sound.
Audio Commentary #1 - The first commentary is with director Paul Schrader as he takes a look back at making the film and all of its themes. This is an engaging and informative commentary track where Schrader also talks about casting the film, working with these taboo themes and story lines, as well as some fond memories from the set.
Audio Commentary #2 - Film experts Eddy Friedfeld, lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo all discuss the life and career of Paul Schrader, Peter Boyle, and George C. Scott, while also discussing the making of this film and it being one of the first films to tackle this sort of subject. This is also a good listen.
Isolated Score - You can click this option to watch the movie with the score only playing.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Booklet - There is a fully illustrated booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo about the film.
'Hardcore' goes down some very dark roads and is sure to be a nightmare to parents who watch. With excellent direction, outstanding performances by George C. Scott and Season Hubley, 'Hardcore' still holds up today, even with this violent and taboo subject matter. The video and audio presentations here are both commendable and good, and the bonus features are slim, but the two commentary tracks are definitely worth listening to. A great film and a great release deserves to be highly recommended!