Hard Times

 (2,071)7.31 h 33 min1975PG
A street fighter during the Great Depression meets with a slick promoter to make some quick money in New Orleans.
Walter Hill
Charles BronsonJames CoburnJill Ireland
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Strother MartinMaggie Blye
Lawrence Gordon
Columbia Pictures
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.7 out of 5 stars

2071 global ratings

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Allen Garfield's #1 fan.Reviewed in the United States on March 2, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Bronson's best? Yup. Walter Hill's best? Yup.
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Especially when you consider that Hill went on to helm 48 Hours, Southern Comfort, The Driver, The Warriors and many more. He also co-wrote Alien.

Walter Hill was an up-and-coming screenwriter with Peckinpah's The Getaway to his credit as well as solid thrillers like The Drowning Pool, The Mackintosh Man and Hickey and Boggs. There is no evidence in Hard Times that Hill was a novice behind the camera, either. This is one of my favorite films of the 1970s. The story is set in 1933. Chaney (Charles Bronson) is a middle-aged drifter who ends up crossing paths with Speed (James Coburn), a fast-talking promoter of "street fights" (no holds barred matches between local tough guys with no rules or regulations). Needing some quick cash, the soft-spoken, low-key Chaney forms a partnership with the mercurial Speed. In his first match, they win big when Chaney knocks the local champ out cold with one punch. They gravitate to New Orleans where Speed can put together some high stakes fights. They are joined by Poe (Strother Martin) an amiable quasi-doctor (he had two years of medical school) with a penchant for opium but who is skilled at patching up bruised and beaten fighters. Chaney quickly becomes a local legend and draws the attention of a local fight promoter/kingpin who insists that Chaney fight a seemingly invincible slugger he has imported from Chicago. When Chaney refuses, the kingpin kidnaps Speed and holds him hostage until Chaney shows up for the high stakes fight. The script, co-written by Hill, is a prime example of how less can be more, at least in terms of dialogue. Bronson says very little during the film, but conveys much emotion with a nod of the head, the blinking of his eyes or a wry smile. This is evident in Chaney's relationship with a local down and out woman (Jill Ireland), who he basically sees for easy sex. When she presses him to convert their trysts into a meaningful relationship, Chaney simply walks out. No drama. No speeches. Similarly, the superb performances of Bronson, Coburn and Martin seem inspired by the Sam Peckinpah school of men sticking together no matter what. When Speed is kidnapped, Chaney initially refuses to help him. He correctly points out that Speed is responsible for his own reckless behavior that sees him make enemies of the wrong people and foolishly gamble away money as fast as he earns it. Yet, in a crunch, Chaney comes to his partner's aid. There is no fanfare between Chaney and Speed, who knows that, by appearing for the bout, Chaney has saved his life. Instead, just a quick handshake a "thank you." By de-emphasizing overtly sentimental gestures and dialogue, Hill makes the relationship between the trio even more moving.

Hill and his co-writers pack a lot of memorable scenes into the film's scant 93 minute running time. Aided by editor Roger Spottiswood (another future director) and legendary cinematographer Philip Lathrop, Hill makes every frame of the film count. There isn't a slow moment or a meaningless line of dialogue. Clearly the highlights are the action sequences. This is Fight Club for the Baby Boomer generation. Bronson, who was in his 50s at the time, performs all of his own gut-wrenching fight scenes, along with co-stars Robert Tessier and Nick Dimitri. They are brutal affairs that will quickly convince you that these men are actually beating each other up. The stunt coordination is among the best I've seen in any film. The film's more whimsical sequences are aided immeasurably by Barry DeVorzon's addictive score.

With Hard Times, Bronson reached the pinnacle of his acting career. It's wonderful to see him reunited with Coburn, his co-star from The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. However, Coburn became even more interesting as an actor as he grew older whereas Bronson grabbed for the low-hanging fruit and began to concentrate primarily on by-the-numbers action movies. (That said, I'm a fan of Bronson's 80s Cannon films.) The film remains a testament to his abilities as an actor- and credit is due for Walter Hill for bringing those out in full force.

Times comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand-new transfer has been created from a 4k digital restoration and the end result is a solid transfer. The image looks crisp, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression. Superior to the Twilight Time release.

This Eureka bluray (all region) comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix in English. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear and robust when they need too. Out of these two audio mixes, the DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix offers a slightly fuller audio experience. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.

Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 23 seconds), excerpts from a 1984 interview with Walter Hill at the National Film Theater, London (31 minutes 32 seconds), three interviews – the first interview with co-screenwriter / director Walter Hill (20 minutes 40 seconds), an interview with producer Lawrence Gordon (14 minutes 20 seconds) and an interview with composer Barry DeVorzon and a twenty page booklet with cast & crew information, Pauline Kael’s original 1975 New Yorker review of the film, archival imagery and information about the transfer.

Topics discussed in the audio interview with Walter Hill include, his thoughts about directing, action cinema, westerns, his favorite directors, the financial side of filmmaking, staging fight scenes, how he got into screenwriting, Sam Peckinpah, why what is written in a screenplay does not always end up onscreen and he also discusses various films that he worked on.

Topics discussed in the on-camera interview with Walter Hill include, producer Lawrence Gordon, making the transition from screenwriter to director, Raoul Walsh, Sam Peckinpah, Hard Times and what type of film was he trying to make, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Strother Martin, cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop and what he learned from him as a filmmaker and his thoughts about Hard Times.

Topics discussed in the interview with Lawrence Gordon include, the origins of Hard Times, Columbia Pictures and how they got involved in distributing the film, Walter Hill and why he decided to hire a first-time director, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Strother Martin, Jill Ireland, cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop and his thoughts about Hard Times.

Topics discussed in the interview with Barry DeVorzon include, Dillinger and his experiences working with director John Milius, how Dillinger’s score lead to him being hired to do the score for Hard Times, Walter Hill, his creative process as a composer, his thoughts about Hard Times and the score for this film was one of easiest scores he ever worked on.

Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Hard Times gets a definitive release from Eureka Video, highly recommended.
13 people found this helpful
M. ThornburgReviewed in the United States on October 25, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
"How does it make you feel...?"
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I wouldn't call myself so much a fan of Charles Bronson that I love every movie he made just because he's in it, but I do love Hard Times (which is a good thing, because my husband watches it at least weekly). Yes, it's about street fighting for money, but it's also about so much more -- character, honesty, loyalty... and it's a realistic reflection of the real hard times of the American Great Depression. Also, of course, there's the solid acting by James Coburn, Strother Martin, Jill Ireland, and Bronson himself. It's good to see these people in roles that exhibit their talent.
13 people found this helpful
Roy StoneReviewed in the United States on June 11, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Didn't Need Widescreen
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I almost returned this before opening when I verified it wasn't wide screen. It turned out I was able to change the viewing image on my big screen to where the image filled it out, top to bottom, side to side, without any distortion. The viewing was great. I was disappointed to find out Charles Bronson swore at Billy Crystal when he read the script for City Slickers. Jack Palance had a scheduling conflict and almost didn't take the role that earned him a supporting Oscar. Charles Bronson didn't like the fact that the character would die. Mr. Bronson would have been great in the role, but Mr. Palance was also great! I do recommend this movie, Hard Times, though. All the acting is very good!
2 people found this helpful
tcasterReviewed in the United States on February 11, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Movie Both Charles Bronson and James Coburn really shine ...
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Great Movie Both Charles Bronson and James Coburn really shine in this movie . Shot in the French Quarter in New Orleans and surrounding areas . I lived just around the corner from the old house they used where Charles Bronson gets revenge on Mr. Pettibon for not paying up.
funny thing about that old house is it sat vacant for years and years in a cow field with the windows painted over in white paint and then they use it for one of my favorite movies. You can see some of the white paint on the door glasses where they did not scrape it off . this house was located in St Bernard Parish on St Bernard Highway in Meraux La. a lot of the French quarter scenes were shot at the cornstalk hotel in the Quarter. I have stayed there, I realized later on when watching this years later it was the Cornstalk. Unmistakable from the corn stalk detail on the fence tops.

Favorite line in the movie "Let's go get the cat"

Update: Amazon originally included this movie with my prime membership for free but is no longer and had to buy it . The movie is worth it but wonder just what am I paying amazon for .
15 people found this helpful
H J DuffReviewed in the United States on June 18, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Catching 1/2 this movie on TV every few years wasn't enough...
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No spoliers, even though this is a 40 year old film.

Great great tough guy movie,
no more excuse to just catch 1/2 of it on TV once every few years, when the DVD is out there for $12.

I'm going back through my list of all time favorite movies searching for the DVDs, or even better Bluerays to get,
and this one is on the short list.

There's something dystopian about 1970's movies that I really like,
maybe not relating to this specific film,
but the good guy doesn't always win, and we don't always get to know why things are the way they are.

There was no presumed happy ending back then, and no assumption of a neat little 15 minute wrap up at the end of the movie.

Bad stuff happens, and we might even leave everything hanging right at the end.

Again may or may not be specific to this movie,
that's 1/2 the joy of movies from this era.

Watch this one and enjoy great acting by Bronson, Coburn and Jill Ireland
as a rental, when it comes up on Prime again,
or jusy buy the DVD to rewatch again and again like me.

6 people found this helpful
Ree ViewReviewed in the United States on August 9, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Bronson shines in an awards caliber film
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Hard Times is Walter Hill's directorial debut about a drifter (Charles Bronson's Chaney) in depression era Louisiana who stumbles into bare-knuckled fights and despite his advanced age, excels. Hill does a great job in his debut and the film feels authentic of the time with scenes shot particularly in New Orleans. The supporting cast is very good, especially James Coburn's slimy, talkative Speed, but this is Bronson's film. The fight scenes between Chaney and his various opponents are a major part of the movie and well choreographed and realistic. But Bronson especially shines in the non-fighting scenes, capturing Chaney's easy to feel for character with his soft spoken nature and natural demeanor. As has been said, it was a role made for Bronson. Not very brutal by today's standards, the realistic violence of the fight scenes at the time of release in 1975 were probably not for everyone and overshadowed a great awards caliber movie.
Chicago JohnReviewed in the United States on August 11, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Don't miss this neglected classic.
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Yet another minor classic that exemplifies why the 1970's remain the great decade for American Independent Cinema and why Walter Hill belongs in the pantheon of great American directors. Bronson, James Coburn and Strother Martin shine in this Depression-era tale of mythmaking in action. The initial dialogue between Cheney (Bronson) and Speed (Coburn) over a tray of oysters in a New Orleans dive is one of my all-time favorite expository openings. "Every bar's got someone in it thinks he's a tough as a nickel-steak, but they all come to Speed for the Do-Re-Mi." I was hooked right there.
6 people found this helpful
Rick AckermanReviewed in the United States on December 5, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Pulp!
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This is Charles Bronson's best film. New Yorker ciitic Pauline Kael, who was pretty discriminating but no film snob, loved it, and so do I. Bronson arrives in New Orleans aboard a freight car and proceeds to demolish -- for money -- the best street fighters in town. The fight scenes are among the most exciting every filmed, and the direction by Walter Hill, in his debut, is pitch-perfect in setting mood and exploiting the locale. I've seen the film a dozen times and never get tired of it. I always suggest it to friends because few have seen it.
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