Hardcore

Paul Schrader updates The Searchers: embattled John Wayne becomes morally upright George C. Scott, and the Comanches become pornographers. This sounds more powerful and interesting than it is. Virtually humorless, the movie is also dramatically and visually repetitive. Scott, a rigid Dutch Reformer, tracks his runaway daughter through the slime of L.A. and whups a great many people upside the head. The endearingly scuzzy Peter Boyle, as a private detective, shows Scott a porn movie featuring the daughter; Scott’s ferocious reaction, if overdone, is the most memorable thing in the movie. (Years later the scene also became an internet meme, with Scott ferociously reacting to the Jack and Jill trailer.) Scott goes undercover as a porn director (sporting a fabulously laughable toupee and ‘stache) and meets porn actress Season Hubley, who helps him. We don’t fear for Scott on any level; the sleazeballs he’s up against are usually about the size of his neck, and he’s obviously in no danger of being seduced by the lifestyle. (Perhaps Schrader had this in mind and Scott vetoed it?) Overall, a clammy and sensationalistic film on a potentially great subject; it makes depravity look as boring as the Calvinist upbringing the girl tried to escape. Terrible score by Jack Nitzsche; cinematography by Michael Chapman.

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