(USA - 1979)

by Mike Lorefice

Cast: George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley, Dick Sargent, Leonard Gaines, Dave Nichols, Gary Graham, Larry Block, Marc Alaimo, Ilah Davis
Genre: Drama
Director: Paul Schrader
Screenplay: Paul Schrader
Cinematography: Michael Chapman
Composer: Jack Nitzsche
Runtime: 109 minutes

"You gotta know buddy, there's a lot of strange things happening in this world, things you don't know about in Grand Rapids. Things you don't want to know about, doors that shouldn't be opened." - Andy Mast

Hardcore is a strong movie because it combines Paul Schrader's background with his fascination and is handled in his typical risky and unflinching style. Schrader was born into a strict Calvinist family in Grand Rapids, MI, so strict that all movies were forbidden until he was eighteen! Upon escaping this repressive environment, he got into film, eventually studying in UCLA's graduate program. Undoubtedly, this life in California without the restrictions of his parents was a different world than the closed religious society he was used to. Schrader drew on these experiences and what could certainly be argued was the most important film in his career that he had no direct involvement in, The Searchers, and the most important film that he did, Taxi Driver (although my pick is Raging Bull), to create Hardcore.

The film begins during a snowy Christmas day in Schrader's old neighborhood with some sleigh riding and ice skating, but we soon get the feeling that the weather isn't the only cold in the VanDorn household. Jake VanDorn (George C. Scott) is an ultra conservative whose life revolves around religion and business. He's set in his ways and has a hard time showing affection, making people seem wanted or feel appreciated. He tries hard, but when you are in your late teens the kind of affection you want isn't a hug in front of all your peers before you leave for a trip.

The film is very subtle in showing the negative aspects of living with Jake. In fact, we never see anything that is clearly negative, but the scenes eventually add up so we can imagine. Jake seems happy and his relatives like him. What's important though is he doesn't seem particularly close to anyone. The world is very clear cut to him. He isn't open to other people's thoughts and opinions. He does listen, but only to he figure out how to back the person into a corner so he can get his way without the words making it sound like he is. He's not a bad man by any means, he's actually the least strict adult at the initial family gathering and the only one that seems interested in sticking up for and entertaining the children. However, his child is almost always on the other side of the house.

Jake's daughter Kristin (Ilah Davis) is a shy, timid, sheltered, naïve teen. Kristin goes on a trip to LA, with the church, of course. We see her cousin is demonstrating a dare to her called chicken where you let your boyfriend run his finger closer and closer to your breast until you decide he should stop (say chicken), but we wonder if she's even had a boyfriend. We are sure that Jake wouldn't approve of this hanky panky if he saw it. Not that you blame him in this case, but if you don't have any freedom then you feel like you are looked down upon. If you don't feel like you are good enough or appreciated then it's not a fun situation.

Kristin winds up missing, and being the extremely pound man that Jake is, he shows no signs of considering that his daughter might have been a voluntary deserter. Jake is totally different from this point, not in his values yet but in his demeanor. He looks increasing grim, unhappy, and tormented. He looks empty, as if a part of him has been gutted.

Jake & his brother-in-law Wesley DeJong (Dick Sargent) go to LA and hire private detective Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) to find Kristin. Andy is not a religious man, and figures these people aren't going to be much help and have no place in his world. He mocks Jake.

Andy: Let me get the picture here. Let me guess. Let me visualize your daughter. She's (an) absolutely clean girl, model daughter. She never had a rebellious or impure thought. She didn't fuck around.
Jake: If I were you I'd watch my language Mr. Mast.
Andy: I'm a private detective VanDorn. If you want to hire a choir boy, you can go back to Grand Rapids. I've been to that scumbag town; it's full of them.

Wesley thinks like Jake thought before Kristin disappeared. He still has his daughter, so while it hurts him a lot that someone he's close to his disappeared, he can't be affected by it in the same way. He tries to convince Jake that what happened was God's will.

Wesley: Jake, you can't dwell on Kristin all the time. Sometimes it's hard for us to understand the Lord's ways. He's testing you. You have to have faith.
Jake: Would you? Could you?

Andy flies to Michigan for a meeting where he tells Jake hardcore films are "legal now, all over…even here in Grand Rapids." He loves to make light of these sheltered religious people, but what he's about to show Jake is no laughing matter. In an excruciating scene that makes us sympathize with Jake, he is forced to witness Kristin in an adult film. We see a new side of Jake, a man that's very uncomfortable with the world he lives in and consumed with rage. George C. Scott does a wonderful job here, combining his fury with his heartbreak. He's screaming "turn it off!" at the same time he's verging on tears and looks like he's going to crush his own skull with his hands. He explodes in a fit of anger, but is too crushed to lash out and winds up crying.

Andy has underestimated Jake. What he doesn't realize is that Jake can no longer function. All he can do is think about his daughter. He even dreams about her. This is not because he loved her so much, but because he's failed both personally and religiously. Even moreso though, it's that he will not accept what she's been "forced to" become. All the purity he worked so hard to preserve is gone, but he will not let himself believe that. She's out there with the sharks where he can't protect her, so like Ethan Edwards in The Searchers he feels the all encompassing need to "rescue her" from what he can't stand whether she wants to be rescued or not.

From here Schrader thrusts his star and us headfirst into the seedy LA underworld. One thing I admire so much about Scott's performance is he's never afraid to look stupid. He goes out to LA in a black suit and tie, holding the bible in his right hand while he steers with the left, and later we see that he even sleeps in a dress shirt. After Jake barges into Andy's house, firing him and even kicking Andy out of his own home because he was about to have sex with a women, there's a whole series of scenes to show what a fish out of water Jake is. One particularly good scene has him placing an ad in the newspaper. He's in this long line of people and everyone can hear his ad, where he wants an experienced 18-25 year old male for a hardcore film, because the girl has to read it aloud to clarify it's exactly what he wants. This is a perfect Schrader scene because he never overdoes the production. He doesn't need to because he gets performers he knows he can rely on to back him and leaves it up to them to convey everything we need to know. The uneasiness, nervousness, and embarrassment on Scott's face tells the entire story, so no music or fancy techniques are necessary. In the other scenes, almost everyone thinks Jake is some kind of cop because the businessmen out there leave their suits at home when they go to the various cat houses and everyone knows not to ask questions.

Hardcore does a good job of showing the generation gap of the 70's. The older religious people controlled Grand Rapids, so the "children" were the outsiders. Living clean, working hard, and saying your prayers was the way of life. All the changes that went on elsewhere in the 1960's and early '70's were kept out. California is just the opposite. The sexual revolution is in full swing, and everyone involved in it save the people who have money are fairly young. It has not brought any freedom though; it's trapped them in a dangerous, exploitive world of smut. Beyond Jake's dress, he seems so out of place because he's usually dealing with people less than half his age who expect him to be a dirty old man.

Initially, Jake makes one awful detective. Like Ethan Edwards, who still wears his confederate garb long after the war has been lost, Jake's look seems like it's from a distant time. Jake's every action is wrong because he has no clue of the kind of people he's dealing with. He's essentially a foreigner, although that's probably derogatory to foreigners. Slowly he's forced to loosen up because he's put in situations where he has to look at things he doesn't like or he'll blow his cover so to speak. He doesn't give up his beliefs, but he's able to put them aside enough that he can make some headway in finding his daughter.

One reason Jake is able to somewhat adapt is that the people with the power in this town aren't fundamentally that much different than he is. They seize power to get their own way, but treat their workers like their babies so it appears they are looking out for them rather than their own interest. By changing his dress and acting slicker, Jake can kind of fit in enough to please a population eager to take anyone's money.

The film really shows the enormity, obscurity, and anonymity of this adult industry. There's the films that have something of a budget and are shown around the country in certain theatres, but then there's all these minor productions made for a few hundred dollars by anyone with access to a camera, some film, and a couple of performers that'll screw cheap. They are called something different each time the reel is sold, and only a few people know or care who is behind them. Everyone is looking to make a buck, so they will be whoever and whatever you want as long as you are paying. In a way you can get whatever you want if you have the money, but since everyone is afraid that you'll give the money to someone else and no one cares about specifics, you more or less only wind up with whatever the person you stumble into has to offer. This is not a place of ethics; the girl in the film's name is Kristin as long as there's money for the taking. You can't argue when it's not Kristin because Lord knows how many Kristin's there are in the area.

Wesley comes to LA to help Jake out, but this time Jake wants no part of it. Now that Jake has changed, he knows Wesley would be no good to him until he changed as well. He doesn't want Wesley to change because it's not change for the better. He might not be able to protect his daughter, but he can protect his family and give himself a better chance of finding her at the same time by getting rid of Wesley.

Schrader said something to the effect that Jake's character was envisioned as his real father if he were given the chance to be a revenge figure. Jake's denial is particularly shown by a scene where Jism Jim (Will Walker), the guy who made the porn Jake saw with Kristin, shows up at his "casting call." He is hardly rich and not popular yet, but he is willing to turn down the job to avoid working with Kristin again. "That is one bitch that I will not work with again. That was one freaky bitch, man. I don't know what she was into. I don't know what she was on. I just don't want anything to do with her again, okay? You know what she did to me? My prick was so red and sore and chewed out I couldn't walk for a Goddamn week." Instead of considering that he might not want her back like Andy said to him earlier, his possession forces his violent nature into full action for the first time. Jake immediately explodes, nearly killing Jim by breaking a lamp over his head. When he sees Jim is still alive, he coldly says "cheer up, you're not dead."

One reason Jake can let out his violence is that his religious beliefs say there's unconditional election, limited atonement, and the perseverance of the saints. In other words, God decided at the beginning of time who was going to heaven and if you've been chosen you can't fall from grace. Obviously his religion is totally against any sort of violence, but when you believe it's already been determined whether you'll get into heaven then from a religious perspective what do your actions really matter? What's important to him now, the only thing that's important to him, is finding his daughter. At the end of his life, the person that is going to find out whether he makes it or not is him rather than God, and he can't change what's already been etched in stone. Since he can't fall from grace, either he's been doomed from day one or God was able to justify him beating Jism because it was for the greater good of finding his daughter.

This is not the reason Jake lets out his violence though. It's not that he thinks Jism is lying either. He can't stand the thought that his daughter is not pure. He can't tolerate the fact that she's looking for sex because she's not married (and even then you wonder if it could be done beyond the purpose of having a baby), much less looking for it with just anyone, much less so hungry for it she can't even control herself when she's with a lowlife sleaze bag like Jim. He realizes it's his upbringing, that he repressed her so much she had no outlet for her wants, fantasies, or really anything else. He won't admit it though, he'll strike back violently in hopes of repelling it.

Jim leads Jake to Niki (Season Hubley), a prostitute, porn actress, anything you'll pay her for who knows the man Kristin is hanging around with. She tries to get Jake to understand what she does for men - not the sexual acts - that she's more or less a therapist. She is both stupid and smart. She can make a lot of accurate "guesses" about what's gone on in a persons life, for instance she figures out pretty quickly that Jake's wife didn't die, she left him. She also tries to make him understand her plight, but he doesn't understand all she's risked to help him. He doesn't realize what pimps do to deserters or at least isn't interested enough to give it any consideration since he didn't ask her to screw over her pimp. It's not his fault she's a whore for him even though not sexually. She didn't have to take the money from him to do this job; he wasn't forcing or even asking her to put herself in danger just to more or less be his guide. If she's guilty of anything though, it's trying to improve her life through an ill-planned method.

Niki likes Jake because he's probably the only man that pays her and doesn't abuse her (he does eventually hits her) or have her do any sexual acts for him. She thinks Jake will take care of her after he's found his daughter, but he doesn't care about her. He appreciates what she does for him, but doesn't want to hear about anything that went on in her life before she met him. He likes her in a way, but we can see why his daughter ran away because most people don't want to be liked in a way that limits and looks down upon them. Their views on life are totally conflicting, and little that Niki says gets through to him. He can listen to filth if he absolutely has to, but he's not going to listen to her stories, which all come back to sex rather than religion, when she already knows he's a desperate father. He writes her off as amoral although that doesn't prevent him from preaching to her.

Andy, who is hired back by Wesley, is used to delving into the underworld but can remain detached. His character is important because he represents the middle ground between Jake and Niki. He understands how they are both lost and attempts to keep them out of trouble. He also doesn't care about Niki because she's no different to him than the hundreds of other women he's come across in the sex industry. "She's the victim, dime a dozen."

Some people don't like the ending of the film, but it makes sense to change it from The Searchers. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with Debbie Edwards living with the Comanches the way we see her. Yes, five years ago they massacred her and Ethan Edwards' family and kidnapped or rescued her depending on your point of view. That kind of thing absolutely cannot be justified, but the natives shouldn't be looked at as clearly the villains either. This is simply the kind of thing that happened in those days because the two sides couldn't peacefully coexist. That doesn't make it right, but it's not like Indian women such as "Look" weren't slaughtered by whites. I don't believe the Comanches rescued Debbie because they know the men they sent off on a wild goose chase will be back soon. Years ago Ethan took Martin Pawley from the scene of a native massacre, now Scar took his two nieces. Scar's reason for doing this has nothing to do with Ethan or Martin, but it's one of many events that demonstrates the two aren't all that different. We only see the white's point of view in the film though, and obviously their side is Martin was rescued and Debbie was kidnapped. If Martin had any family that knew he was still alive they would say he was kidnapped. They would claim the white bastards would do this and that to him (not necessarily kill him, but it's not improbably that he'd live the life of a lowly outcast). The Comanches could have killed Debbie or made her some kind of slave, but instead they made her one of them. There's plenty wrong with kidnapping, but nothing wrong with the life of a squaw beyond the plight of women in every society that point. I should say as long as she chooses to live it, which she seems to (although there are other factors like her and the natives safety that could make her say something she doesn't mean), but it's not like she'd have much choice if she'd stayed with the whites. Debbie has been living the life of a squaw for so many years that it's pretty much all she knows. She doesn't fit in with her whites anymore just like Martin doesn't fit in with the natives; they are too far removed from where they came from.

Made may be the key word that defines Debbie's current lifestyle, but when Ethan finally catches up to her at the end, she certainly seems to have come to accept the Comanches as her family and the squaw life as hers. Ethan, of course, doesn't know what they did with her for a long time, so he has good reason to chase after his abducted niece just like Jake has good reason to chase after Kristen. The reason you wonder if Ethan will kill Debbie (he eventually admits it's his intention on more than one occasion) is that, although travels with his "half-breed" nephew Martin (technically 1/8th Cherokee but Ethan shows equal intolerance for every 8th of this orphan he rescued/kidnapped from an Indian slaughter until Martin wins his respect) the entire film and has great respect for the Comanches (he speaks their language, knows all their beliefs and customs) he absolutely loathes all Native Americans. It's not only because of what they've done to his beloved Martha, raping and killing her, as he's very much prejudice from the moment we meet him. This is most likely due to his mother being killed by Comanches 16 years earlier. Long before he admits it, you feel that no matter what she wants, he has decided she's better off dead than a part of what he despises the most. "Livin' with Comanches ain't bein' alive." He has grown to hate Debbie because she's now assimilated. Jake, on the other hand, refuses to accept or listen to anything negative about his daughter. He refuses to believe she's become assimilated. He's looking for redemption rather than revenge. Her first words to him after five plus months are "don't hurt me" because she's seen the rage he's shown toward her "friend" Ratan (Marc Alaimo).

Jake: I know it's been terrible for you, but it's over. You can come home now. It doesn't matter what they made you do.
Kristin: They didn't make me do anything. I wanted to leave.
Jake: Well that's not true, baby. You didn't leave; they took you away. I love you.
Kristin: Don't touch me you cocksucker. You never gave a fuck about me before. You didn't, so don't touch me now. I didn't fit into your Goddamned world. I wasn't pretty or good enough for you. You never approved of any of my friends. You drove them all away. I'm with people who love me now. You robbed my life.

A big difference between Hardcore and Searchers is Jake always loves his daughter. Ethan "secretly" loved a woman that was killed by the Comanches in the raid. He may have felt something for Debbie because she was the daughter of the woman he cared about. However, he's incapable of loving the way the women of that community want to be loved. The reason Martha marries is brother is it appears Ethan will never settle down, and she's only willing to wait so many years for him to come around. He couldn't show his love for Martha before because he wouldn't settle down and he can't show it for her upon his return from fighting for the Confederacy and mysteriously wandering the country because she's no longer available. Debbie could have been his kid, but it's not like he's filled any kind of role for his niece. In fact, at the start of the film there's a scene that shows he's been gone so long where he picks Debbie up thinking she's her older sister Lucy. Debbie has to tell him Lucy is over there. As the movie progresses, it seems more and more like his feelings are against the Comanches rather than for Debbie. It also seems more and more that if he did love Debbie, he no longer does unless you believe killing her so she can't continue with and as a Comanches is an act of love. Perhaps the only things Ethan and Debbie would agree on is that they no longer consider each other kin and both consider her to be Comanche.

Jake clearly felt for Kristin throughout the film. Before she ran away, he had been trying to show it and be there for her. His problem was that he was not any good at showing his feelings, made worse by the fact that his values and lifestyle made things lousy for Kristin. Jake's odyssey has brought him to realize that the world isn't what he thought it was and rigid beliefs and his pride kept him from treating her the way he should have. He's certainly not going to turn against religion, but I think he realizes that if he'd loosened up a little bit Kristin wouldn't have had to leave to experience things.

I liked the change in the ending where Jake doesn't take Kristin "by force" like Ethan does (she does agree when he's holding her up once she realizes he's not going to kill her); he makes it Kristin's decision. This is not to say anything negative about the end of The Searchers, as it was a great movie with a great ending for that movie. I just feel this ending works much better for this film than that one would have because Jake has manipulated people into answering the way they wanted throughout the film. Kristin doesn't say she'll go with Jake right off the bat, he makes it look like he's going to leave but then asks her again if she really wants him to. It makes it seem like it's her decision all the way. We could believe that Kristin can go back to Jake because he shows her that he's different now or at least going to try to be. I don't believe that this is why she goes back to him though.

Another big difference from Searches is Kristin knows she's in a danger from "her people" at the time she's rescued by the searcher. Ethan believes Debbie is in a lot of danger because the Injuns will raise her as one of their own until she's old enough that she's appealing to rape, and then they'll murder her. In the beginning of his quest, Ethan found Lucy's dead ravaged body. Later, he comes across several whites rescued from the Comanches and says, "They ain't white anymore. They've Comanche." That's his racism, but one can't deny that one has been driven crazy by spending so much time with them. Throughout the movie he's been right about the ways of the Comanches, so he could be accurate about Debbie's danger. On the other hand, Martin has to leave his loyal girlfriend Laurie more than once because he believes it's the only way to possibly prevent the bloodthirsty racist Ethan from cleansing Debbie by murdering her. You could make the case that Ethan's journey was initially honorable because he was trying to save someone that was kidnapped. However, it's a different story after they return home so to speak and Martin is forced to almost immediately leave Laurie again to try to prevent Ethan from succeeding in his niece murdering mission.

The Searchers shows Ethan & Scar, whose two sons were murdered by whites, to be essentially the same person when they finally meet face to face. However, whether it's good or bad Debbie has more of a relationship with Scar because she's been with him for 5 years as opposed to the one day we know she was with Ethan. Scar made Debbie his squaw almost as soon as he saw her (the hypocrisy of Ethan's hate for the Scar/Debbie relationship is shown by the folly he finds in Martin accidentally buying a squaw rather than a blanket), so she seems to believe she's safe now that she's one of them. The only danger she sees after seeing Ethan again comes from him or the clumsy Calvary against her people.

While it's possibly true of Debbie's relation with the Comanches, it's almost certainly true that Kristin doesn't realize the extent of the danger she's currently in. If she did, she probably wouldn't (unless like Jake we assume she had no choice) be hanging around with Ratan, a guy who specializes in pain and has no boundaries to what he provides, not even death. Ultimately, one can figure she's seen enough to know this isn't the warm and fuzzy place she's acting like to get her dad to admit he's been wrong. She isn't loved; she's used like all the other dime a dozens (probably true of the Scar/Debbie relationship). There's no future here. We don't know where her future lies, but things have progressed to the point where women can choose more than their husband if they aren't going to be a whore. She's not truly satisfied with the underworld, so leaving with Jake is her chance to make a better life for herself. Perhaps she'll give Jake the chance to show her that things are different. Perhaps she'll leave as soon as she finds a place or a man that offers the possibility of true happiness. She seems to have some power in the relationship now because she's not dragged back. Kristin is not going to return to the status quo, but she's not going to stay in this hellhole either. She was corrupted in most people's eyes, but she's grown up more in these few months than she may ever had if she returned to Grand Rapids with the rest of the kids. The ending is happy in the sense that both Jake & Kristin have learned something from their mistakes and misadventures, but whether Jake can trust someone else's judgement and understanding and Kristin can make Jake give her independence is anyone's guess.

Regardless of what you think will happen with Kristin and Jake, the ending certainly is not all happy because Adam convinces Jake that there's nothing he can do for Niki. Jake would have given her money, which shows he grew to care for her because this was money he didn't owe her, something above and beyond the good pay he already gave her for her work. Ultimately, he agrees it would not have make any difference because she belongs to the streets. She always will until she is no longer able to work them because it's all she knows.

Kristin can leave because this is not her world. Although she has adopted the filthy mouth and done some dirty deeds dirt cheap, she has not been assimilated. She is just a lonely outsider in a world where everyone does what they can or have to for a buck.

Jake can leave because he's not a lone homeless rebel soldier trapped between the past and the present, and stuck in no man's land between the white and Native American worlds like Ethan is. Ethan is not civilized and incapable of living in a family oriented community, while Jake was sheltered by this lifestyle and too civilized. Ethan hasn't had a home, so he has nothing to go back to but roaming the wilderness. Now that Jake is done, he can go back to what he knows, the sheltered quarters of Grand Rapids. Jake doesn't respect and understand the mentality of the people who had the girl like Ethan does. He can be a poseur, but he doesn't change as much as he might have because he's very repellent to their lifestyle. He won't go back to Grand Rapids entirely the same, but now that he's got his daughter back he can largely go back to ignoring the existence of this other world. He won't be exposed to it in Calvinist country, and there's no longer any mission that forces him to surround himself with sex.

Ethan and Jake do things doing their search that cannot be justified, but they wind up being better men at the end. When Ethan says, "Let's go home, Debbie" and Jake says, "Then you take me home" they are immediately redeemed. The burning hatred and intolerance that drove them to devote their life to the search simply vanishes; they become more gentle, caring, and merciful. Although Jake returns home while Ethan continues to roam, they are finally at peace with themselves and those around them.

What makes the film stand out is that Schrader pulls no punches. This is the unflinching, realistic look that you find in all of his best films. Every character, even the few that could only be there for comedy like Big Dick Blaque (Hal Williams), feel like real people. Most of the characters are only in the movie for a few minutes, but they are vivid. You feel like you know them, but they are not stereotypical cutouts like we see in so many films today. It has its share of funny moments, but they fit so perfectly into the story that they only serve to liven it up.

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The late George C. Scott's performance is towering. Schrader has gotten a lot of great acting performances from some of the top actors, but this is better than even Nick Nolte in Affliction and Willem Dafoe in Light Sleeper. Scott does so much with his expressions. Jake tries to keep an even keel, but he's so torn and horrified that it is simply impossible. It's a very intense, at times subtle and at times explosive, performance. He's so worn out by what he sees, yet still remains so desperately driven. It's an extremely passionate performance by Scott that is on par with his amazing work in his best film, Patton.

Peter Boyle is good as the very human investigator. He's not afraid to speak his mind, but always willing to shut his mouth when it comes down to money. He's not afraid to bust a low life, but not above accepting the pleasure they can provide instead. He has a way of seeming unproductive yet knowledgeable. What stood out the most was how he enjoyed tormenting Jake even though he pretended he hated it.

Ilah Davis is the weak link of the movie. She is not very convincing as Kristin. Her performance seems unnatural, forced. She barely has a line aside from the final few minutes, so it's not a killer, but the conclusion would have been a lot more powerful with a more passionate and credible performance.

The similarities to Taxi Driver don't stop with the main character wanting to rescue a hooker. Schrader uses cinematographer Michael Chapman, who filmed Taxi Driver and went on to film Schrader's best work, Raging Bull. He uses a different filter in almost every scene, but no matter what glowing color he may be showing the underbelly in, the feel remains bleak. The late great Jack Nitzsche, who has done many interesting movies including Performance, The Exorcist, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Schrader's first film Blue Collar, Personal Best, Stand By Me, The Hot Spot, & The Indian Runner contributed another quality atmospheric, mood setting soundtrack. Chapman & Nitzsche's work is what you could expect from members of a production crew working for Schrader, good, solid, and effective, but not spectacular. Nitzsche's Blue Collar score was definitely superior, but overall Schrader has improved upon his debut.

If some of this plot sounds familiar, it's because the Joel Schumacher's of the world ripped Hardcore off. I liked 8MM, but not surprisingly Nicholas Cage's performance doesn't approach Scott's and the film simply is not as believable or compelling. It gives you a more predictable film with people you are supposed to hate while Schrader gives you several sub-themes and characters that are products of their environment.

Hardcore is more daring than 8MM because it looks at the whole porn scene rather than focusing on a snuff film. More importantly, unlike the very good retrospective Boogie Nights, it did it during the time when the industry was still using film and in some cases trying to be an art. There were very few films looked at the porn industry during this peak period. There was a 1975 film I've never seen called Inserts with Richard Dreyfuss & Jessica Harper that looked at the birth of porn. It was killed off by an X rating and is no longer in print though, so there's no doubt that the risk was at least part of the reason. Schrader has never appeared to be afraid of taking chances, pushing the envelope, or making something that won't make a lot of money, which ultimately is why his output has been consistently good and worthwhile.



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