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Westlake Entertainment Inc. presents
Hard (1998)

"Are you afraid?"
- Jack (Malcolm Moorman)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 20, 2007

Stars: Noel Palomaria, Malcolm Moorman
Other Stars: Charles Lanyer, Michael Waite, Paula Kay Perry, Alex DePedro, Cynthia Downey, Bob Hollander
Director: John Huckert

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language, sexuality, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:41m:10s
Release Date: February 20, 2007
UPC: 798622348326
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C+B-B- C+

DVD Review

When a film is compared to Silence of the Lambs and Seven, my curiosity is piqued. In this case that comparison is just some other review blurb, here splattered across the front cover of the unrated director's cut of Hard, a 1998 serial killer project from writer/director John Huckert. But what are the odds of that being accurate? That comparison is mighty big talk, and a film really needs to walk the walk to live up to that high falutin tout, something that unfortunately Hard isn't quite able to do.

It's not for lack of trying, however. Huckert piles on plenty of grim tableaux and crime scenes, which bring to mind the obvious Fincher comparisons, yet the total experience seems to just be missing something. The plot concerns a serial killer named Jack (Malcolm Moorman), who enjoys brutally raping and murdering men, something that we get a taste of in the disturbing opening sequence where an unlucky hitchhiker takes a final ride. Jack's trail of victims eventually has him crossing paths with a rookie detective named Ray Vates (Noel Palomaria), and at that point Huckert seems to lose his way, as the story devolves into a weak variation of the cat-and-mouse thriller.

One of the things that Hard has going for it, in terms of being somewhat unique, is that both the antagonist and protagonist are homosexual. And it is a dominant theme throughout, with some of the sexual elements fairly graphic (both criminal and otherwise), which is probably going to be a big red flag for your standard issue homophobe. If that's you, then that's really your problem, not mine.

Palomaria's Vates does have to keep his sexuality a secret on the police force, and Huckert does a little preaching about perceptions and hatred that seems to detract from the necessary forward momentum of the plot at times. Yes, I get that intolerance is a problem, but I already knew that going into this one. I get it. I think it's enough to just know that Vates has to reinvent himself at work without having secondary characters spout coarse anti-gay comments to hammer home the point for us.

There are some good things at play here, if grisly's your bag. Not every film can depict the removal of a severed penis from a dead hooker's mouth and get away with it. Hard does that early on, and that seemed to be setting a very distinct tone for what was to follow. The crimes do get increasingly sadistic (even a poor cat gets a staple gun to the head at one point), and Moorman's Jack is truly one heartless, frightening hombre. That's all good stuff for something that is trying to be raw and disturbing, and the presentation of the murders (and the aftermaths) all have a very ugly realism.

But to call this a mix of Silence of the Lambs and Seven is just a little off, because those two films had more going for them than just murder. Demme and Fincher gave us characters and situations that generated a range of emotion, not just scenes of potential repulsion. Connecting those fibers together is what makes a story complete and draws the viewer in, and John Huckert is missing a couple of key ingredients. Having the leads be gay is not enough to save the weaker plot points from being just as noticeable, no matter how many dead bodies there are.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The quality of the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer fluctuates periodically, yet consistently suffers from soft edges and subdued palette, though some scenes do look a bit stronger and more defined than others. Fine grain is noticeable, though the new print appears to be free of any large scale nicks or debris.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A rather plain Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is available, but one that provides clear voice quality throughout. Not a lot of dramatic directional movement to make note of, nor are there any significant flaws in the presentation. No issues with hiss or distortion either.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 44 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Strangers Online
18 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Malcolm Moorman, Noel Palomaria, Charles Lanyer, Michael Waite, Dennis R. Herrera, Mitchell Grobeson, John Huckert, John Matkowsky
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Two commentaries appear on this release, the first featuring cast members Malcolm Moorman, Noel Palomaria, Charles Lanyer and Michael Waite, while the second has director/writer John Huckert, producer/writer/cinematographer John Matkowsky along with a couple of technical advisors from the police department. Both tracks cover the usual range of topics we've all heard before—"that's my least favorite shot in the movie," "this scene was shot last," "she was great to work with"—and only a few comments from the technical advisors offer anything really new, especially if you're wondering how accurate the stripper-in-the-police-station scene is.

Malcolm's Audition (5m:47s) is pretty much what it says, and if you enjoy watching actors read from scripts this is for you. Q&A's (29m:02s) contains four segments from assorted film festival showings, with appearances by John Huckert, Mitchell Grobeson or Noel Palomaria fielding questions from the audience about the film. The quality isn't so hot—both audio and video—which makes sitting through this something for diehards only. A set of 18 deleted scenes (47m:11s) are available with optional John Huckert commentary, and many of the scenes are extended versions of what's already in the finished film. A lot of the cut scenes are presented in work-print format, and the quality is fairly poor.

The disc is cut into a whopping 45 chapters, with no subtitle options.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A low-budget grisly crime flick gets the "unrated director's cut" treatment, and while it is often remarkably graphic and grim, the underlying story fails to deliver a suitable resolution.

 


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