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A man hops off a train. It’s the dirty 30’s. He grabs a cup of coffee at a cafeteria and then makes his way over to a warehouse where a bare knuckle fight is taking place. He watches the fight. Later on he catches up with the manager, Speed, of the losing fighter. The man, Chaney gets Speed to set up a fight for him. Reluctantly Speed makes the fight which Chaney wins in impressive style. Speed sees dollar signs and a chance to break into the big time. With his new fighter the two head to New Orleans where the money is. Speed makes the rounds hustling up fights and getting his old cut-man on board. Chaney goes his way and turns up when a fight is arranged. The two men make a less than conventional partnership. Speed the fast talking hustler street savvy gambler. Chaney the stoic all business no bullshit fighter. We watch the two men as they make their way through the hard, tough times of depression New Orleans.
CB caught this at one of the Saturday matinees he used to go to. Right from the start Walter Hill creates the time and place and pulls us into it. He keeps the story simple. It’s a tough world and people are trying to survive. So many things work in this film and the main one is the casting. Hill sprinkles in top notch support to back up the leads who are perfect. Strother Martin as Poe has never been better. A treasure in the film world. He gets to show off his talent in this fine film. He plays (under plays) a functioning junkie. He really is good. James Coburn as Speed made me like his self centered hustler. He is a lovable prick and it’s no wonder half of New Orleans wants to kick the shit out of him. Very good performance.
Charles Bronson is one of the movies original tough guys. He was the perfect and only choice for this role. You believe every second that he is the character. Whether he’s in a fight or when he’s interacting with others. His scenes with Jill Ireland are truthful and subtle. And unconventional. Again, in this role and film he was never better. Others would have been acting. Bronson just is.
The fight scenes are realistic without a lot of unnecessary indulgence. Just short and brutal. A real well done under the radar film that is worth a watch. I really liked this movie. A CB favorite. Strother, James and Charles are gold.
So hang out with Poe, Speed and Chaney in ‘Hard Times’ for a while. A hidden gem of a motion picture. No bells and whistles just a simple tale told well.
“Lets go get the cat”
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