Paul Schrader's writing had yielded some of the 70's and 80's most provocative and intense slices of urban fiction. From Taxi Driver to the riveting Blue Collar, and the amazing Raging Bull his gift for realistic and challenging dialogue, as well an uncanny knack for finding interesting stories in the most unlikely places, made him an artist whose screenplays and stories would always overshadow the fruits of his other labor; directing. Seemingly taking cues from his frequent collaborator, Martin Scorcese, Schrader developed a very rough and tumble visual style that, in his early films, had the urgency of documentary filmmaking, with a grainy and gritty look that could easily be interrupted as the grime of his onscreen world oozing over into our own. 1979's Hardcore, which makes it's DVD debut courtesy of Columbia/Tristar, is one of Schrader's finest efforts, and features George C. Scott, in one of his most underappreciated roles.
Scott plays Jake VanDorn, a god-fearing, hard working, straight-as-a-ruler Midwestern businessman whose troublesome teenage daughter goes missing. VanDorn tracks her down to Los Angeles, after a tip leads him to believe she's been performing in adult films. VanDorn hires a local call detective (Boyle) to aid in his search, and befriends a poor hooker (Hubley) who he believes can lead him through the Los Angeles sexual underground to find his daughter. VanDorn finds himself adopting the look, style, and attitude of the sort of person he'd spent his life crusading against, and, as he wanders down a path of sex, drugs, and violence, he sees the world his daughter has chosen over his, and wonders if he can truly bring her back.
Hardcore is nearly twenty five years old and yet it still retains an edginess that defies it's age. Sure, it's a bit tame in comparison to some of the more recent films of this style (8MM comes to mind), but it doesn't need over-the-top violence and nudity to get it's point home. Hardcore's edge is in Schrader's manic direction and brutal dialogue, and is capped off by Scott's riveting performance as a man who is forced to confront not only the demons of his daughter, but those he'd repressed himself. Watching Scott, one can almost feel the pressure build within his character, and it's a brilliant and brave performance.
The DVD from Columbia/Tristar features a very nice widescreen transfer that has been remastered in High Definition. While it retains the original film's grain, this is easily the best I've ever seen it. The Dolby sound mix is solid, although distorts a bit during the film's louder moments, like many films from this era do. There aren't any special features, sadly, save for some previews for other films, as well as the obligatory subtitle/language options.
Hardcore may have gotten on in years, and it may not pack the same visceral punch it did back in 1979, but it's still an undeniably effective and well crafted film.