Hard is definitely a difficult movie to.... for lack of a better word, "swallow". Director/Writer John Huckert brings a full on assault to idealistic morals with his serial killer flick that pits newly appointed Detective Raymond Vates against the murderer that not only knows his identity, but the secret that he's withholding from the police force.
Generally speaking, homosexuality is usually a topic not touched by the horror genre, and it was for that reason that Hard initially drew my attention. Being a huge fan of Al Pacino's incredible performance in Cruising, I felt that Hard would be an excellent follow up to a film that upon its first viewing, totally blew my mind. John Huckert's delve into the realm of homosexuality had a similar effect on me, although for very different reasons. There is more shock value to Hard than there was for Cruising, albeit the latter of the films featured far superior acting. However, Hard should not be discounted for its lack of sensational dialogue, rather praised for its ability to execute an excellent storyline while constantly diverting the audience's attention with graphic scenes of torture, rape and death.
Detective Raymond Vates, newly appointed to the homicide division of his police department, is initiated to the squad with a case where a killer is brutally torturing his victims (all homosexual males), raping them and then dumping their bodies for discovery. Amidst the constant barrage of "gay" jokes cracked by his co-workers, Vates develops a strong connection to the case on both a professional and personal level. Upon chance, Vates runs into the killer while conducting standard investigating procedures for one of the murders and ends up sleeping with him, all the while believing he was a witness to one of the bodies being dumped. Waking up bound to his bed frame, Vates soon learns that the killer's intentions were to get close to the detective and expose his secret homosexual lifestyle to the homicide division.
Victimized by the killer, Vates now has the undesirable options to either tell his co-workers of his sexual preferences, or face the criticism of the police force when they discover that he indeed slept with the killer. Unfortunately, Vates does not disclose his lifestyle soon enough, as his badge is discovered in the mouth of a new victim and he is put under the spotlight as suspect No. 1. The killer's game of cat and mouse is brought to a new level as Vates must prove his innocence, all the while maintaining his dignity as his co-workers berate and shun him.
Hard delivers a superior plot and storyline, confronting the controversial issue of homosexuality in the police department, as well as the basic perception of the homosexual lifestyle. As a heterosexual male, the graphic rape and sex scenes were almost as shocking as the torture and death showcased by the killer. Although I'm in no way offended or against homosexual lifestyles, the way in which Huckert conveys intimacy to the audience is quite blunt and brutal, a portrayal I found a bit misleading and unnecessary. Granted, some of these scenes were necessary to develop the persona of the killer, most were thrown in randomly and without purpose.
As far as special features and extras go, the Director's Cut of Hard is fully loaded. Featuring the NC-17 cut of the film, the disc also contains Actor & Director Commentaries, Writer & Technical Advisor's Commentaries, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Film Festival Q & A, Audition Tapes and some previews. An insane amount of content to go along with a truly insane film!
Although Hard may not be everyone cup of tea, it's an interesting venture into a topic generally untouched by the genre. If you can stomach the movie's controversial and often offensive content, you'll easily discover one of the better storylines to cross the serial killer path since Silence of the Lambs.