Walter Hill has moulded an amazing career. He enjoyed a successful start as a screenwriter on classic films like The Getaway, and re-writing and producing Alien. It would always be a natural progression to ultimately direct a self-penned project. This would become 1975’s Hard Times. As the ‘maverick’ director responsible for The Warriors, Streets of Fire, 48 Hours, Southern Comfort and Extreme Prejudice, to name a few, each and every film stands out and there are simply too many greats to list. I recommend any serious movie fan to check out his work. He remains my all-time favourite filmmaker to this day.
So it was both topical and exciting to hear that his classic, somewhat overlooked debut Hard Times was getting a re-release as part of Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinemas series.
In this old time tale, legendary Hollywood hardman Charles Bronson plays Chaney, a mysterious drifter, loner and bare-knuckle fighter who hops a freight train in 1930’s New Orleans during the Great Depression. By chance encounter, he teams with local hustler Speed (James Coburn) and sidekick Poe (Strother Martin), introducing him to the local fight scene. There, our team face tough fighters and even tougher gangsters in their pursuit of a payday.
Showing strong ties to Hill’s trademark terse dialogue and brisk energy, this period fight drama still packs a serious punch and serves up one of the best performances of Bronson’s long-spanning career. Likewise, Coburn and Martin have great chemistry and make this is a memorable, loveable underdog team the audience can’t help but root for.
The fight action and choreography, while a little dated by modern standards, still bursts with intensity and shows the actors going toe to toe with force. The moves may not be complex, yet they are shot with clean wide angles and show a 53 year old, grizzled and lean Bronson living up to his tough image. The emotion and story injects drama into the action, making the outcome of Chaney’s journey all the more exciting.
Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Series present the film in a Dual Format edition on UK Blu-ray for the first time from a brand new restoration. The film looks truly cinematic and as beautiful as ever; sharp, clear with virtually no grain. The sound is strong too and both music and dialogue, as brief as it is, really cuts through. This film has never looked or sounded better.
The extras boast some excellent new interviews with the filmmakers, shedding new light and reflection on this timeless film 40+ years since release. This covers how the film got made, filming in these living and breathing New Orleans locations, through to Bronson’s notoriously difficult behaviour on set, offering some good anecdotes for cinephiles. This new edition includes:
-New 4K digital restoration
-Uncompressed PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray with English subtitles
-New interview with co-writer/director Walter Hill
-New interview with producer Lawrence Gordon
-New interview with composer Barry DeVorzon
-Audio excerpts from Walter Hill interview at the National Film Theatre, London
-Original theatrical trailer
-New 20 page booklet featuring Pauline Kael’s original 1975 New Yorker review of the film and archival imagery
Every one of Hill’s films represents a bygone era, a throwback to tough guys and big characters with actions speaking louder than words. Famously referring to all of his films as westerns, a stripped down, visceral movie like this definitely fits that bill. For anyone who loves the simplicity and soul of old time action films, or fans of Charles Bronson and his brand of tough stoic cinema, Hard Times is a true classic.
Hard Times is out now from Eureka Entertainment