Monday 8 April 2024

Movie Review: Hardcore (1979)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Paul Schrader  
Starring: George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley  
Running Time: 108 minutes  

Synopsis: In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott) is a successful business owner and a conservative Calvinist. His daughter Kristen departs to a church-organized summer camp in the Los Angeles area, but then disappears. With the police disinterested, Jake hires private detective Mast (Peter Boyle), who uncovers evidence Kristen has entered the pornography trade. Jake travels to Los Angeles to pursue leads, and after many dead-ends teams up with prostitute and porn actress Niki (Season Hubley) to infiltrate the industry and search for his daughter. 

What Works Well: In this eyes-wide-open journey into the sordid world of sex-for-sale, writer and director Paul Schrader navigates an underbelly milieu populated by an assortment of seedy product creators. From film producers raking in millions to lowly performers eking out a peep show living, a heavy-hearted George C. Scott as Jake Van Dorn bumbles his way into a neon-drenched environment far removed from his tidy suburban God-worshipping existence. Although Kristen is a minor presence, Schrader avoids obvious exploitation narratives, and through the character of Niki successfully finds heart, soul, and pathos in the gutter. 

What Does Not Work As Well: Jake's transformation from anguished father to man-with-a-plan is quite sudden; and the final resolution is emotionally rushed.

Conclusion: A post-viewing cleansing shower is recommended.

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