The Van Dorn family are good church going folk and the head of the family is Jake (George C. Scott) who is a prominent local businessman.  When his daughter Kristen goes missing on a coach trip, he goes to Los Angeles to try and find her.  Jake hires a somewhat shady private investigator after the police seem uninterested.  The PI, after a couple of months discovers Kristen has starred in a hardcore porno film.

Jake decides he has to search for his daughter and goes ‘undercover’ into LA’s seedy world of strippers, massage parlours, porno film making and hookers.  Due to his strict religious views Jake finds this world disturbing and after coming up with nothing, he decides his last hope is to pose as a porno producer to try and locate Kristen.

Written and directed by Paul Shrader, Hardcore for it’s time (late 70’s) is a deadly serious drama with impeccable performances from Scott, Peter Boyle and Season Hubley as a friendly ‘lady of the night’ who also moonlights as a porno actress.  Although the film is no comedy, there are one or two funny lines here and there which relive the frankly at times depressive tone of the film.  I mean depressive in terms of the film’s themes and locations as some of the things Scott’s character has to experience shows the real desperation of the people who worked in that industry back then.

Amongst all the seriousness, Schrader still manages to create possibly two of the greatest character names in film history.  Forget Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights, we’ve got ‘Jism Jim’ and ‘Big Dick Blaque’, an extremely well built funky 70’s dude who could be a cousin of John Shaft.  This guy should have been given his own film, he’s as cool as hell.  Big Dick is played by veteran actor Hal Williams who has credits as long as your arm (or something else!!)  On display also is a fine example of quality pimps from the era, it’s like a Huggy Bear/Superfly convention on the streets with fashions to die for.

In the way that a lot of scenes are played out, you can see Joel Schumacher definitely used the film as an influence for 8MM staring Nicolas Cage a film I’ve always rated even though the subject is REALLY depressing and dark.

Hardcore is a very good film, in fact it’s an excellent film.  The subject matter and salty dialogue might not be to everyone’s taste but if you can get past that it is a first class piece of cinema.

  • Starring George C. Scott  Peter Boyle  Season Hubley  Leonard Gaines  Gary Graham
  • Directed by Paul Schrader
  • Distributor Indicator / Sony / Twilight Time (in the US)