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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s Hardcore (KL Studio Classics) 


Paul Schrader takes George C. Scott down the swirling drain in Hardcore.  New to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.  

The Film 

I’m betting you’ve only seen the George C. Scott “make it stop” scene from this film.  Most have not watched Paul Schrader’s Hardcore.  The out-of-context clip has become famous, for a while, on the internet.  However, it remains to be said that Schrader’s second film is more character study of an austere man than a deep dive into the salacious world of the sex industry.  Hardcore is designed to be a character study where no one gets out clean.  

Part of the genius of the film is that it takes its time unraveling the dark world that Scott is about to enter.  Schrader knows that he must begin in light before darkness can intrude.  We see the idyllic sanctified life of Jake Van Dorn (Scott) a Dutch Calvinist.  He’s a stern man with the strictest of principles and moral codes.  There is a disdain that Van Dorn has for anything that doesn’t match his limit test.  It is no wonder that he thinks that his daughter has been kidnapped by sex traffickers.  His ego and codes do not allow him to think anything otherwise. 

That austere nature is what pushes Van Dorn to take matters into his own hands.  A blind belief he’s right and not that the Private Eye Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) could be right – as he’s seen these situations for years.  Hardcore understands at every turn that Van Dorn’s inflexibility is his undoing and his saving grace.  Schrader – who wrote the script – is a man much like Van Dorn whose work is in constant battle with itself.  The commercial and the artistic – a fight that is even seen in his latest film.  

The conflicted man has never been better than when Schrader is either writing him or writing and directing him.  Throughout his entire career from Taxi Driver to Master Gardener, he has shown us men who of strict code learn quite quickly that they mean nothing in the vast dark of the world in which they tread. 

Hardcore is no exception and like so many of Schrader’s films is an unqualified masterwork of characters entering the darkness.  

The Transfer

The Transfer appears to be the one from the prior release but with the added benefit of better compression software and digital tools which the original Blu-ray Release (from Twilight Time) was not.  After a review of both discs, Kino releases have improved giving us a fresher fuller transfer that looks to have been improved upon.  Comparisons definitely show an uptick in the finer details of the transfer including contrast, grain, and sharpness.  Bravo to Kino for going back and allowing the most important part of any disc, the visual representation thrive.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Paul Schrader
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Paul Schrader from 2016 opens with how he shot in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Some of the details include some of the personal touches he included in the opening montage sequence; a discussion of his Calvinist upbringing – including personal anecdotes throughout; meeting and casting George C Scott – including a great anecdote and truly living up to Scott’s character; how compose Jack Nitzsche accomplished the haunting moments of the score; the various locations they shot the production including LA, Grand Rapids, San Diego; working with Peter Boyle – including a great anecdote about Scott form Boyle and how Scott used his nearsightedness to his advantage; directing the infamous “make it stop” scene in the porn theater; the two regrets he has from the film; developing the script with Warren Beatty initially – and all the ego that came with that; working with Paul Sylbert as production designer; a larger discussion of sex work and how he’s made multiple films about it and its changing since making Hardcore; working with cinematographer Michael Chapman – lessons learned about how he would shoot films and how they approach shooting films now; a great discussion about how there will never be a truly success NC-17 rated long form narrative feature in his estimation; a side conversation about his time as a film critic and the review that got him fired; his thoughts on revisiting his prior films – and the reasons why he does not like going back; the changes made to the ending – from original written in the script and what they shot; and much more.  Schrader commentary track is a vital and required listening as he’s informative, serious, funny, and honest to a fault – exactly like his films. 

The second, also from 2016, Audio Commentary by Film Historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo opens with introductions and their initial thoughts on the film.  Some of the details include a discussion of Schrader’s original script for Close Encounters of the Third Kind – which leads to a larger discussion of Schrader’s scripts and the “what if” including the work of his own directed works; a detailed account of the career and life of George C. Scott; a wider conversation about Religion and Paul Schrader in this film and the moral themes that come up throughout the film – and how this is accomplished; a larger discussion with film’s about sex workers – and the lack of films with “stars” and credible actors in those films; a larger discussion of the sex industry during this era and how it was effected by the advent of VHS/Home video; a discussion about Warren Beatty being attached and his “demands”; a discussion of the changing of the film industry and sex industry since this film was made; throughout the trio discuss the various supporting and character actors in the film and their various work outside of this film; and much more.  The trio delivered an insightful and informative conversation with varying opinions on the various matters and themes discussed.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for Hardcore (1:22), They Might Be Giants (2:19), The Day of the Dolphin(3:09), Blue Collar (2:37), Serpico (4:16), Marathon Man (2:39) 

The Final Thought 

Hardcore is a brilliant piece of grimy and grim of a character study of an austere man in a chaotic world.  Kino Lorber has given it a great Blu-ray edition.  Highest recommendations!!!*   

*If only for those who can handle the darker material. 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of Hardcore is out now 

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