Hard Times (1975)
Director: Walter Hill
Screenplay: Walter Hill, Bryan Gindoff, Bruce Henstell from a story by Bryan Gindoff, Bruce Henstell
Stars: Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland, Strother Martin, Margaret Blye, Michael McGuire, Michael McGuire, Bruce Glover, Robert Tessier, Nick Dimitri, Maurice Kowalewski, Naomi Stevens, Brion James and Frank McRae.
Tagline: New Orleans, 1933. In those days words didn’t buy much.
1933. The depression rages. A man known only as Chaney (Bronson) travels the rails from town to town. He makes some money and moves on. In New Orleans, Chaney happens on a warehouse where underground fights are taking place. High rollers bet on the outcomes of each match.
Chaney watches with interest. Chaney later meets with Spencer “Speed” Weed. Weed manages fighters. Chaney offers Weed the opportunity to manage him. They agree on percentages and head back to the warehouse. When a promoter offers odds for anyone to take on his fighter, Chaney accepts. Odds are given and bets placed. Chaney has six dollars to his name and bets it all on himself. When he easily knocks out the other fighter, Speed sees dollar signs.
Speed tells Chaney he has a plan. If Chaney can beat a well known undefeated fighter, they stand to make a lot of money. Chaney agrees. Little do they know the double crosses that await.
Thoughts (beware of spoilers)
Hard Times was Walter Hill’s directorial debut. Hill followed Hard Times by directing The Driver, The Warriors, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, 48hrs. and Streets of Fire. What other director came out of the shoot with so many hits?
Hill’s original idea was for Chaney to be a younger actor. Someone like Jan Michael Vincent. While that would have worked, when Charles Bronson expressed interest, it was pretty much a done deal. I think that having Chaney be an older guy (Bronson was 53 at the time) works to the film’s benefit.
Bronson and Hill got along well, but never made another film together. Bronson wasn’t happy with Hill’s opinion of Jill Ireland’s (Bronson’s wife) acting. He also didn’t like that some of her scenes were cut.
Hard Times is one of my favorite Charles Bronson films. It’s gets better with each new viewing.
Hard Times (1975) rates 4 of 5 stars.