Hard Times is a stark and brutal look at the lengths to which some men would go to make money during the depths of the Great Depression. It is the first film from director Walter Hill (The Driver, The Warriors, 48 Hours), and boasts an outstanding cast headed by Charles Bronson and James Coburn. The story is spare but compelling, and the look of the film realistically depicts the appearance and atmosphere of New Orleans in the 1930s.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayBlu-ray Amaray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/11/2013
Hard Times is a stark and brutal look at the lengths to which some men would go to make money during the depths of the Great Depression. It is the first film from director Walter Hill (The Driver, The Warriors, 48 Hours), and boasts an outstanding cast headed by Charles Bronson and James Coburn. The story is spare but compelling, and the look of the film realistically depicts the appearance and atmosphere of New Orleans in the 1930s.Chaney (Charles Bronson) is a drifter who rides a freight train to an unnamed town in the south. He arrives with only a satchel and six dollars in his pocket. While drinking a cup of coffee at a cafe, he notices a group of men gathering across the street. He decides to investigate, and he discovers that the men are there to bet on the outcome of a bare-knuckle fight which is taking place in an old warehouse. One of the fighters is managed by Speed (James Coburn), a fast-talking con man and gambler who is betting that his man will be able to whip another fighter. However, Speed's fighter is pummeled to the ground and the bet is lost. Later Speed is approached by Chaney, who needs money and believes that he can be a successful fighter. Speed decides to take a chance on the drifter, who then proceeds to win his first fight with a single punch.Dutifully impressed by Chaney's ability, Speed takes him by train to New Orleans, where bigger fights can be arranged. Chaney, however, is his own man. Before he will respond to Speed's offer of a partnership, he wants to take a look around the city. He rents a room and meets Lucy Simpson (Jill Ireland) at a restaurant. She takes an interest in Chaney, but she is wary. "I got a husband in jail," she tells him. "No job and no prospects." When she asks him about his plans, Chaney responds "I don't look past the next bend in the road."Chaney decides to make a deal with Speed, who brings him to the waterfront to see a fight involving Jim Henry (Robert Tessier), a heavily muscled brawler whose bald head seems to be impervious to punches. Henry is managed by Chick Gandil (Michael McGuire), a flashy dresser with lots of cash. "Son of a bitch has broken me out three times," Speed says to Chaney. "He's the one we're going to shake." Speed is his own worst enemy, borrowing from loan sharks and gambling his cash away as quickly as he makes it.Chaney is an enigma, a laconic loner who is a man a few words. We know nothing about his background. He tells Speed that he plans to fight only until he has enough money to hit the road again. Speed decides that Chaney will need a cut doctor, so he introduces him to Poe (Strother Martin). Actually, Poe is not really a doctor - as he explains to Chaney, "I have two years of medical school to recommend me." That is good enough for Chaney, and Speed begins working on raising the $3,000 he needs to set up a fight with Jim Henry.In some respects Hard Times reminds me of another depression-era drama, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Both films are about desperate people trying to earn money during a period when jobs were scarce and the future was uncertain. The difference is that Hard Times is less grim, in spite of the gritty subject matter. Although James Coburn delivers a terrific performance, this film is dominated by Charles Bronson, who was in better shape at age 53 than many men twenty years his junior. Director Walter Hill demonstrates a keen eye for period detail and uses interesting camera angles to enhance the realistic fight scenes. The subject matter is not for all tastes, but Hard Times is a riveting portrayal of the Great Depression which will not be easily forgotten.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The 2.35:1 1080p transfer of Hard Times effectively utilizes the AVC codec. The print is immaculate and looks as good as I remember it in theaters nearly 40 years ago. The image is generally very sharp. The color palette is somewhat muted, which is in keeping with the period in which the action takes place. Flesh tones are accurate the lines in Chaney’s face drive home the feeling that he has lived a hard life. The framing appears to be spot on. A moderate level of film grain is intact, giving Hard Times a pleasing, film-like appearance. This fine Blu-ray does justice to Philip Lathrop's excellent cinematography.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The 5.1 HTS-MA audio is superb. Dialogue is consistently clear and understandable, and the evocative musical score by Barry DeVorzon is given a wide and pleasing soundstage. The film is free of explosions and other room-shaking noises, but the sharp sounds of bare fists hitting human heads will likely make viewers wince.English SDH subtitles are available for those who need them.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The extras on this Blu-ray disc from Twilight Time include the isolated score track and the film's original theatrical trailer. The trailer is in good shape.Also included is an informative and insightful eight-page illustrated booklet by the always interesting Julie Kirgo.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Hard Times is brutal and violent, but at the same time it manages to be uplifting and life-affirming. People did struggle mightily during the Great Depression, but most of them somehow managed to find a way to get through it. This Blu-ray presentation is being issued in a limited edition of 3,000 copies, so those who are interested are well-advised to visit the Screen Archives website to confirm that it is still available.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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