HARDCORE — CLASSIC FILM PICK
Stuck between “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “Paris, Texas” (1984) Paul Schrader’s obsessions with the underbelly of America’s porn culture of the era goes down every sleazy back alley that 1979 had to offer.
“Hardcore” is described being “loosely autobiographical,” and indeed Schrader’s Calvinist upbringing plays a major part in the culture shock that his alter-ego Jake VanDorn (played by George C. Scott) endures after his teenage daughter Kristen goes missing during a school vacation to Los Angeles. Jake’s transformation into a (fake) porn film producer allows the Schrader’s theme-filled exposition to expand in all directions.
Peter Boyle adds his signature authenticity to the picture as a Los Angeles private detective who never fails to exploit his position in and around the sex trade. But it is Season Hubley’s portrayal as a sex worker named Niki that gives the film its thematic and human resonance. Notable too is Jack Nitzsche’s musical score and Michael Chapman’s vibrant cinematography.
Although flawed by a trope-filled ending, “Hardcore” is a fascinating social drama that makes scathing commentary about organized religion, capitalism, and America’s politically driven puritanical pretenses. “Hardcore” fills an essential chapter in American Cinema’s Golden Decade.
Rated R. 109 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)