Hard Times

The debut film from Walter Hill, Hard Times, a depression-era bare-knuckle boxing movie, comes to Blu-ray

Film Review by Lewis Porteous | 28 Apr 2017
Film title: Hard Times
Director: Walter Hill
Starring: Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland, Strother Martin
Release date: 24 Apr
Certificate: 15

A commercial success with which Walter Hill launched his directorial career, Hard Times is perhaps best remembered for playing to the strengths of its leading man. Here we find Charles Bronson on form as a typically inscrutable, almost messianic figure prone to dignified silences and explosive bursts of violence. He was seen sleepwalking through the previous year's Death Wish in a similar fashion, the result being an ugly, preposterous ode to vigilante justice. In Hill's hands, unsophisticated tools are put to far nobler use, helping craft a humane study of honour among Depression-era lowlifes.

There's a purity to the movie's simple premise and the sense of inevitability with which its narrative unfolds. Bronson's catatonic charisma lends itself the character of a resilient but damaged freight-hopping drifter, while James Coburn shines as his motor-mouthed manager on the bare-knuckle boxing circuit, also an inveterate gambler. The characters aren't believable because Hill romanticises both to such a wild extent, but his broad brush strokes manage to capture something of the human spirit.

The director steers clear of mawkish sentiment by populating his world, a gaudy, dilapidated New Orleans, with its share of memorable grotesques. A disgraced, opium addicted doctor creepily tends to our hero's wounds, while Bronson's main boxing rival grins from ear to ear even as he takes a pummelling. Such details mean that while Hard Times isn't an important film, or even necessarily a good one, it will certainly stay with viewers long after a solitary viewing.


For this DVD, Masters of Cinema provide us with a faultless print and audio that does justice to Barry De Vorzon's terrific score, alongside more extra content than anyone could realistically desire. [Lewis Porteous]

Released on DVD and Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment