Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley
Director: Paul Schrader
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: September 14, 2004

"Turn it off…turn it off…TURN IT OFF!"

Film ***

Writer/director Paul Schrader perhaps made the first dark venture of its kind in the late 70s with the intense drama Hardcore. The film, though not as controversial now as it may have been then, is the kind of character journey that only a filmmaker like Schrader would dare to pull off then. Nowadays, many directors have taken similar trips to the dark side, the best example being Joel Schumacher with his strikingly eerie thriller, 8MM.

Schrader, whose credits include scripting the Martin Scorsese films Taxi Driver and Bringing out the Dead and writing and directing the recent Auto Focus, is a filmmaker who seems to know the areas his films take us. Most of the time, they are not often pleasant, but that's very much the entire purpose of the journey; to make us aware that life isn't always the happy image we so want it to be.

The story of Hardcore is a definitive example of this type of story. It centers on Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott), a much religious businessman who resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jake appears to live a validly normal life, tending to his young daughter, Kristin (Ilah Davis), and engaging with fellow devoted Christians for frequent get-togethers.

Jake's life takes an unexpected turn for the worse when he is told that his daughter went missing in Los Angeles, while with a church group en route to a Christian-related meeting in California. Jake doesn't even hesitate before flying out to California to look for his daughter himself. Once in town, he hires local private eye Andy (Peter Boyle) to help him in his search.

The private eye eventually turns up a lead, but it doesn't make Jake any happier. The lead is in the form of a looping film reel that shows Kristin engaged in a sexual activity with two other men. Terrified beyond belief, Jake takes it upon himself to locate his daughter, no matter what circumstances it will take.

There's no question that the strength in the film is George C. Scott's monumental performance, which is also something of a tour de force, since this is the kind of film he was normally not known for doing. Scott, one of our all time greatest actors of intensity and ferocity, makes us believe every hint of emotion that is displayed from the character.

While Hardcore is a most effective film, there is one flaw regarding the film. After seeing the aforementioned 8MM, it's hard to find a much more impact-worthy, and for that matter a more disturbing, film with the same kind of content. It's true that Schumacher's film was nonetheless inspired by Schrader's film, but I guess in the end, all that it boils down to is the fact that I saw 8MM first, and found it to be the more effective of the two.

BONUS TRIVIA: The early parts of the film take place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which also happens to be Paul Schrader's birthplace and hometown.

Video **1/2

Columbia Tri Star's anamorphic handling of this late 70s pic is actually much better than I expected it to be. At the same time, I wouldn't go so far as to say the presentation is at a groundbreaking level. Picture quality adds up a balancing mix of good enough clarity, especially in lighter tone sequences, to that of low level clarity, most definitely in darker lit scenes which manage to accompany the last twenty minutes of the film.

Audio **

The 2.0 channel track offers up what it can with a dialogue-driven film from the late 70s. While dialogue is about the only thing I can rate the film on, along with occasional music playback, the delivery is very well heard and delivered. With this kind of sound presentation, you get pretty much what you expected.

Features *

The sole feature is a bonus trailer gallery, featuring trailers for Big Fish, Secret Window and The Opposite of Sex.


Paul Schrader has made many dark films involving the examinations of fully realized characters, and Hardcore is a perfect example of this kind of film. Though its notoriety and controversy may not be as big today was it was 25 years ago, it still remains an effective piece.

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