Ever watched Taxi Driver and wondered about what kind of father or family Iris had? Wonder how she ended up as a whore… ahem.. sorry, “sex worker” in New York City? The writer of Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader, must have because in 1979 he wrote and directed Hardcore starring George C Scott. The film could very well have been a spiritual prequel to Taxi Driver that tells the story of how Iris ends up as a soiled dove.
The story is about a religious father in Iowa who has a daughter that goes on a church trip to Los Angeles, never a good idea, but she doesn’t return. She has run off for a life of pornography and prostitution. Scott drops everything and goes to the City Of Angels to find his daughter. He hires a private detective, played by Peter Boyle, who turns up some 8mm film reel of her doing a porno and he shows it to Scott. That goes over about as well as you’d expect.
Scott goes on to try to find his daughter by his own wits, even making friends with a porn producer who could be Easy Andy’s brother. He learns about the porn business and manages to set up a back room casting couch situation where he lures potential actors in until he finds the one that was in the film with his daughter.
This leads him to a part time porn actress and prostitute who he befriends. With her help, the two of them close in on the location of his wayward daughter after navigating the full length of the sewer that is California.
There is some great stuff in this movie. It is a slow boil about a man with strong morality and iron determination looking for his daughter he thinks has been kidnapped and turned into a sex slave. We get to see Los Angeles in all its 1970s sleaziness.
Hardcore is a real look at the family left behind when girls like Rollergirl from Boogie Nights run off to a life of degeneracy. Scott gives a great portrayal of a iron-willed religious man who has to face some very harsh realities about a world he didn’t know existed.
The film is from that golden age of 1970s movies that explore a sleazy subculture of American that exists just below the surface. Unlike Travis Bickle, who seems to both love and hate that degenerate underworld, Scott’s character oozes discomfort and disgust. He barely contains it and hides it from the people he has to interact with to try to get help. It takes its toll on him and you see the slow change happening. By the end of the film you know nothing will ever be the same again, certainly not his daughter and for sure his worldview has drastically changed.
Don’t sleep on Hardcore. It’s now a forgotten gem from the time that no one talks about anymore. It hits all the points I loved from a film of the era, flawed heroes, pure scumbags and perverts, some violence and a ambience that requires a shower after watching. Hell, it even has a small cameo of Reb Brown as the manager of a whore house. Enough said!
Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of this masterpiece.