Hardcore

 (400)
7.01 h 47 min1979R
A deeply religious man's daughter leaves with a church group for a meeting in California. When she disappears, he hires a detective to find her. The detective suspects the worst, morally, and that shocks the father ever to hear of it. He fires the detective and sets about to find his daughter himself.
Directors
Paul Schrader
Starring
George C. ScottPeter BoyleSeason Hubley
Genres
Drama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Producers
Buzz Feitshans
Studio
Columbia Pictures
Rating
R (Restricted)
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Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.4 out of 5 stars

400 global ratings

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Top reviews from the United States

Allen Garfield's #1 fan.Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
All region Indicator/Powerhouse Blu-ray. Best edition yet.
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Much, much superior than the Twilight Time release - starting with amazing 4k restoration. The price is right, too.

Paul Schrader’s 1979 film Hardcore is an unrelentingly grim but fascinating look at the sordid world of low-budget pornography and prostitution in California. It is not for all tastes, but it has been brought to Blu-ray by U.K. outfit, Indicator/Powerhouse with outstanding picture and sound. All region!

An updated/re-imagining of John Ford's The Searchers (also present in Schrader's Taxi Driver script), Paul Schrader’s 1979 film Hardcore is an unrelentingly grim but fascinating look at the sordid world of low-budget pornography and prostitution in California. It is not for all tastes (like any great film, I guess).

Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott) is an upright and uptight businessman in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His theology is Calvinism, his business (custom wood furnishings) is successful, and he lives in a nice but unpretentious house with his teenage daughter, Kristen (Ilah Davis). Shortly after Christmas, Kristen and other members of her church board a bus to attend a Youth Calvinist Convention in Bellflower, California. The youngsters are thrilled to be leaving snowbound and dull Grand Rapids for sunny and exciting California. A few days later, while having dinner with his sister and brother-in-law, Jake receives a devastating phone call from California. Kristen has disappeared while on a group outing to Knott’s Berry Farm.

Jake immediately flies to Los Angeles (the first thing he sees is the "Hustler/Think Pink" billboard adjacent to Larry Flynt's monolithic HQ), where the police have little in the way of leads to go on. Kristen was last seen at Knott’s Berry Farm in the company of a young man, but nobody knows his name. The only encouraging news they have for Jake is that there is no evidence that Kristen has been physically harmed. He turns to a sleazy but seemingly competent private investigator, Andy Mast (Peter Boyle, at his sleaziest), who assures Jake that he has a nose for tracking down people and promises that he will find Kristen. And he does find her – sort of.

Back in Grand Rapids, Jake receives an unexpected visit from Mast, who has something important to show him. They proceed to a small screening room which shows X-rated films, a room which Mast has rented for an hour. Jake takes a seat and, in the most powerful scene in the film, his demeanor changes to anguish and anger when he sees Kristen engaging in an expicit sex act with two men - a soundless 8mm "loop" making it all the more "underground" and ominous. Mast (who takes sadistic delight in this development, by the way.) does not know who made the film, or where Kristen is. Finding no clues at home, Jake decides to fly back to Los Angeles, where he fires Mast (one wisecrack to many) and begins searching for his daughter on his own.

Pretending to be an investor looking to finance an adult film, Jake immerses himself in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. He visits strip clubs, adult book stores, peep shows, and the set where a pornographic film is being made. While at the set he meets Niki (Season Hubley of the sleaze classic, Vice Squad), a pretty young woman who carves out a living of sorts by appearing in X-rated films and working at a peep show. Niki knows her way around the sex trade in L.A., and she agrees to help Jake, whose obsession is now punctuated by anger, to find his daughter. (Not unlike John Wayne's, Ethan from The Searchers.) Indeed, at this point rage is the driving force - rather than his daughter's predicament.

Paul Schrader wrote and directed Hardcore, and he clearly drew upon his own upbringing in a stern Calvinist household in Grand Rapids, where he was not allowed to see a film until he was 18 years old. His screenplay has two minor drawbacks. The part of Kristen is underwritten, so much so that we scarcely get to know her until the film’s final scene. A quick scene between father/daughter at the beginning could have fixed it. The other drawback is the final scene, which is a wee bit contrived (in fairness to Schrader, in his commentary track he says that the ending was forced upon him by Columbia Pictures president David Melnick). In between, however, there is much to like, including a scene where Niki intuitively concludes that Jake’s wife, who he has claimed is deceased, actually left him and is very much alive. She asks, “What was the problem? Sex? Always is.” In fact, Jake professes to have no interest in sex, and Niki see the irony in this. “I mean,” she tells him, “you think it’s so unimportant that you don’t even do it, and I think it’s so unimportant that I don’t care who I do it with.”

George C. Scott turns in a powerful performance as the repressed, humorless Jake, who seemingly has to force himself to smile. Jake’s puritanical ways lead Mast to give him the nickname “Pilgrim.” (a nod to John Wayne, too.) Season Hubley is excellent as the cynical but not entirely jaded Niki, and Peter Boyle is entirely believable as a private eye who is not shy about getting down and dirty. Ilah Davis, who as Kristen has little to do until the end of the film, is interesting in that she never made another film after Hardcore. Supposedly she joined a commune in New York City and later married and was divorced by a man named Ralph Rogers. She developed multiple scleroris and became an advocate for victims of MS before dying in 2007. Fine supporting performances are turned in by Dick Sargent and Leonard Gaines and Shrader regular, Ed Begely, Jr. All minor roles and extras all completely authentic, lending the film a documentary vibe.

Although Hardcore contains a fair amount of nudity and strong sexual language, not to mention the terrifying screening of a "snuff film," there little eroticism in it. As a sex scene is being shot in a cheap motel room, the producer and his assistant try to convince themselves that they are doing something artistic because their director is a graduate of UCLA. (Not an uncommon phenomenon, back in the day). Schrader’s message is two-fold: there is no attempt by Schrader to excuse or sanitize the seamy side of the sex trade, but he also is sharply critical of the rigid religious upbringing which he and Kristen were subjected to. Still, as noted it should be apparent that this film is not for all tastes.

Colors are muted but accurate/ appropriate in the dreary, Amway owned dump that is Grand Rapids. Trust me. Scenes become bolder and even garish (obviously) when the action moves to California. The picture is consistently sharp, with strong contrast, excellent detail, solid blacks, and fine shadow detail. There is no sign of dirt, speckling, or other anomalies. The gritty cinematography is by Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and benefits greatly from location filming in Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Audio: 4/5
The English 1.0 DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack has a surprising amount of punch, particularly when the great Jack Nitzsche’s pulsating score (Cruising, Performance) kicks in. Nitzsche was an integral part of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” and worked with The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Neil Young and others. Dialogue is clear and understandable but at times is almost - just almost - overwhelmed by the music. English SDH subtitles are available.

A new commentary track by director/writer Paul Schrader is interesting, although he sometimes gets so engrossed in anecdotes that he fails to comment on individual scenes. He talks freely about George C. Scott’s drinking problem, and while he commends Season Hubley for her performance he feels that she was too pretty for the part. He also laments the fact that he had to change the ending of the film in order to placate the studio. The thematic similarities between Hardcore and John Ford’s The Searchers are intentional.

Also included: an audio interview (1993) with Schrader that synchs nicely with the film. A novel way to do a commentary track.

Shooting Hardcore: a ten minute interview with DP, Michael Chapman - also known for Taxi Driver, 1978s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, The Wanderers... indeed some of the best films ever made.

Hardcore Nitzsche: a twenty-two doc on the great - and ultimately doomed - producer/composer. Features William Friedkin, Milos Foreman, Ry Cooder (slide guitar on The Stone's "sister morphine") and whos contributions to cinematic soundtracks spans decades. I've read that this short is going to be expanded to a full-length film. If nothing else, Jack Nitzsche is the only celebrity to get arrested on TVs "Cops." But I digress....

Trailers, stills and isolated soundtrack round this out.

A great buy - better (and cheaper!) than the Twilight Time release six or seven years ago.
14 people found this helpful
Fred DerryReviewed in the United States on March 12, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Classic Movie, Terrific Transfer, Awful Director Commentary
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First off, before the review of this movie, which finally received a terrific HD transfer on the Twilight Time Blu Ray, it must be noted that the 2016 Commentary Track by director Paul Schrader is just... heartbreaking. At this point of life, he's very difficult to understand, and while his nightmare stories on dealing with George C. Scott are kind of interesting, all he does is knock the movie, telling all the people who shelled out $30 bucks or more that it's nothing compared to the movies he does today, all of which are either forgotten or unknown. He points out he wasn't a good writer in the 1970's. That even Warren Beatty, in 2000, told him he turned into a good writer. The guy who wrote Taxi Drive and Blue Collar and this masterpiece of subtle brilliance has no clue about the cinema he helped created. He says that 70's movies are hard to sit through because of the time spent on dialogue, and getting to know the story and characters. Guess he prefers the MTV style change after Top Gun. Sad. But anyhow, now... onto the movie...

George C. Scott is a straight-laced, Midwestern business-owner with an innocent daughter who, on a church trip from hometown Grand Rapids, Michigan to Southern California, suddenly goes missing at an amusement park (Knotts Berry Farm, to be exact)...

Desperate, and with only a mellow lecture from the police, he hires a street-smart, quirky L.A. Private Eye, Peter Boyle, who literally proves that his client's runaway daughter is a porn actress, resulting in an awkward (and at this point, YouTube-famous) tantrum from Scott that few actors could get away with... But what's really intriguing, and even humorous without being distracting or contrived, is how Scott's Jake Van Dorn clashes with Boyle's gumshoe, symbolically named Andy Mast, their verbal dynamic exceeding intentional scene-stealer Leonard Gaines as a Los Angeles porn producer more talkative than "Easy Andy" from Schrader's original game-changing script of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, TAXI DRIVER...

Back on track: After a few weeks, Jake returns to California and in doing so, wanders the streets, going from porn stores to massage-brothels backed by Jack Nitzsche's bluesy hard-rock score, practically bursting through the screen (eventually curbed by Neil Young's vulnerable acoustic 'Helpless' playing in a sex shop). The juxtaposition of the conservative loner lost in a modern Gomorrah is both mesmerizing and familiar ("Are YOU talkin' to me?!"). Eventually, the film loses some validity when our woebegone lead goes undercover as a would-be-producer, donning a bogus mustache and mirrored shades, weeding out young porn-actors in search of the one guy (Ryan O'Neal's failed getaway driver in THE DRIVER) in the only photo of his daughter, at work. Although this sequence is entertaining, providing a more conventional audience a break from the severe mainline, it somewhat trivializes the edgy and risque subject-at-hand, curtailing the essential danger of the quest, which had a sparse, unapologetic exploitation vibe beforehand.

The most pivotal and engrossing scenes occur during the third act, not involving sex or nudity, but what Schrader does best: one-on-one dialogue when Scott hires multi-talented prostitute, porn actress and window-room dancer Season Hubley to help him since Boyle, spending more time with skanks than finding clues, wasn't closing the deal fast enough for a desperate and determined father: Their conversations, ranging from Faith to Johnny Carson, Damnation to Bestiality, evokes peripheral comparisons of two completely different human beings – the Calvinist and the Whore, both alike in their aloof indifference to society, and sex – injecting a philosophical edge into the forefront, even surpassing Travis Bickle's similar-themed conversation with young hooker Iris (ala Robert DeNiro and Jodie Foster in, again, TAXI DRIVER). But some of the time, much like William Freidkin's CRUISING, we don't get as involved or firmly-planted inside the "perverse" underworld as we're led to believe...

The voyeuristic camera seems mounted to the wall during many scenes – often more seductive than revealing. And the finale, involving Scott beating up the villain, is way too typical, more befitting the following decade (when heavies were punched into swimming pools): It's the contrasting... and ultimately connecting... philosophical discussions, providing random breaks throughout an intentionally grueling road, that makes this semi-obscure Paul Schrader vehicle work: a late-70's counter-culture flick (with a few STAR WARS sightings) that needs a much bigger, far more dedicated cult following – hope this helps.
31 people found this helpful
Francis Booth LynchReviewed in the United States on June 24, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
A TULIP by any other name...
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Movie 9 of 1979 and 69 overall in my journey through films of my lifetime.

While I always appreciate both foreshadowing and juxtaposition "Hardcore" lays both on pretty thick. I always think it better to trust your audience's intelligence. Also it is okay to miss something on your first viewing of a film. Today, many years later, Easter eggs and subtleties are still being found in "Fight Club" and this was intentional. A movie can be bigger than what one can experience in a theater. Perhaps that's an issue worth exploring. There was little expectation that a movie would be viewed at home in 1979 I suppose. Could that have been a driving force for why movies were made the way they were then? It's an interesting thought.

The revelation that the main character's daughter had descended into the world of adult films didn't come off as entirely genuine to me. I understand that it's better to show than tell in a movie but perhaps the PI could have seen the film then conveyed it to the main character. Why show him the movie? I don't believe a normal person would have done that. The PI, definitely not a normal person, but none the less, should have understood that this guy probably didn't need to actually see his daughter with two men to understand the situation. In fact the PI specifically sets out, prior to asking him to watch the adult movie, to wake this guy up a little so he must have understood lines of appropriate conduct. Now overall the PI's inappropriate decision and motives are well done. In fact the director/writer (Schrader) will tackle the subject of a blurred sense of decency again in his brilliant movie "Auto Focus." However, that problem is not all that well pronounced in the character (Mast the PI). So much so that I'm not sure that's what the film maker actually had in mind. Many times a snag like this could have yielded a more robust story or character had the creative margins been stretched a little. Say the PI told him he saw the movie on a peep show and the Father becomes curious. Although he is warned about the things that go on in LA the Father must see for himself to believe. He becomes ashamed of himself for tracking it down, going into a slimy adult store. Maybe he even over hears someone talking about how much they loved that new girl and new movie. Sure it takes a little longer and the impact of the seedy world invading this man's sheltered life is stretched out some, maybe even dulled, but the emotions and character motivations would be genuine. I want to be clear that making movies is obviously a difficult thing to do. I would be mounting high levels of huberous to pretend that I know better than these film makers. I completely respect their decision to make this movie the way they did. My idea is an after thought and hine sight so I'm not privy to the rigors of the process. I'm just offering an alternative concept as a point of option. The kernal of story here is really good and it's not my intent to down play that. Not only is the plot good the film makers are indeed making good on it as well. Maybe what they did is the best anyone could have done. I was just offering my fantasy scenerio in a perfect world where it's possible to do whatever one wants as a film maker. That's obviously not the case though and much respect to these film makers and I appreciate their efforts.

One thing that stands out is the amount of attractive women that were cast as prostitutes. Really there were almost no unattractive women and that deluded the authenticity in my opinion.

Although Schrader came from calvinism himself the picture he offers of a Christian is stuffy and non human. It's not as bad as "The Wicker Man" where the Christian cop is a mere prop but it's definitely noticeable.

George C Scott in disguise lol.

Another great positive of the story is how proactive the main character is. His goal is noble as well. This keeps the movie pacing well and rooted in his experience. On the down side: he's not flawed enough. He's not ever tempted or loses sight of his goal. I consider that another missed opportunity. This could have been a powerful commentary on humanity.

(spoiler territory) Unfortunately I found the ending to be pretty weak. I feel like violence is low hanging fruit. Sometimes it's the only resolution and fits perfect but not in this case. Additionally, the movie wasn't about his (Scott) pride. His daughter blames him for her desire to leave and pursue this life. This comes out of the blue and we can't relate to his daughter's pain. Had there been allusions to his pride being a problem, even a little it, would have helped. After a little crying she does an about face and it feels very forced. Anything for a happy ending. The ending of "American History X" did its ending much better where the arch of the main character was completed by his revelation of his own actions. It's not happy but it was meaningful and powerful.

Despite what I wanted the movie to be what it is is good. I know it looks like I couldn't accept the film for what it is. The truth is I thought it was quite good. So good it inspired me to want more and that's why I have so many alternative ideas. I actually highly recommend "Hardcore." It was a unique take on a dark subject and it handles it well. Was it at the level of "Requiem for a Dream" as far as serious tone? No. It did handle the subject matter with care and seriousness though.

Pros
-George C Scott was great it was great casting
-a dark subject handled well
-clever proactive measures taken by main character

Cons
-a lot of potential left on the reel

This was my final movie of the 70's. An absolutely worth while effort. The movies that fit my expectations were truly as bad as I thought. However I was way more surprised by how good many of these movies were. I'll now think of the 70's as the decade of horror. This was the great strength of the decade for me as I did this.
5 people found this helpful
Yaakov (James) MosherReviewed in the United States on December 30, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
War of the worlds
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At one end a superb primer on how religious severity can drive people away and -- on the other end -- a reflection on damage wrought by the Sexual Revolution. Both are held together impressively by Paul Schrader using a crack troop of actors and contrasting images and sounds.
"Hardcore" is also an early border skirmish in the culture war, produced at a time when hardly anyone noticed the difference between blue and red America (Democrats were actually the red party on the 1976 Election Night TV maps). The compelling dialogue between the concerned father (George C. Scott) and the sex worker (Season Hubley) shows collaboration is still possible during this war of the worlds but the film's ending shows these two Americas can't live together for long.
2 people found this helpful
david hanshawReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Classic Angry George C. Scott ! It don't get much better !
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If you are a George C. Scott fan and have not seen this great film you have missed a powerhouse performance. Like many great films from the 70s era the plot is simple. Scott portrays a small town preacher who singlehandedly takes on a kiddie porn ring that has kidnapped his teenage daughter . Get ready for action as George C. Scott goes undercover into this dark world to kick butt and get his daughter back! This is George C. Scott at his very best !!
2 people found this helpful
happy camperReviewed in the United States on October 5, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
George C Scott in a den of sex sellers and slaves..........
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George C Scott is your more than active religious business man who allows his teenage daughter to go on a pilgrimage to California He soon discovers that his daughter is missing and hires a private detective(PERER BOYLE) to find her. When he is shown a porno with his daughter in it it drives him almost crazy. So he leaves for Hollywood never expecting the filth that used to a part of tinsel town in the 70's Eventually he finds her and learned that he never showed his love for her as a father really should. Great acting my Scott as he tries every way to find his daughter in a sin filled city .
paulbramanReviewed in the United States on April 4, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Thank you, thank you, thank you
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Waiting for ever to find this on blue ray. Worried this being an important. But I had to have it . And was not disappointed very pleasantly surprised. Transfer is great . George c Scott is awsome as always. Just a great movie form the past and not dated. Warning when movie is loading my took about a minute so don't be alarmed. Mine took about a minute.
One person found this helpful
Kindle CustomerReviewed in the United States on May 6, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Revolting...
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but it was , I guess, too real to not watch. The mention of Calvinism by George C Scott was creepy enough, with some of it's views on women being twisted, sadistic (just read some of John Calvin's views on females yourself if you doubt me). No wonder things the young ladies went through in this film exist in our world. Beyond that Scott is a true hero in that he admits his faults ,breaks some rules and some heads and goes looking for his kid just like the Good Shepard looking for the one lost sheep.
2 people found this helpful
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