Hard Times (1975)

Genres - Action, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 8, 1975 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Walter Hill's first outing in the director's chair is also arguably his best, in this near-mythic tale of a bare-knuckle boxer trying to survive during the Depression. Charles Bronson, in what is also his best role, plays the aging fighter who arrives in New Orleans looking as though he's already absorbed a few thousand punches. Possibly the only film in which Bronson has a good backstory to explain that remarkable face, it's the perfect marriage of a timelessly archetypal character with the condensed history of a desperate time. Bronson, who was 54 when he did the film, plays a fighter who uses his age to sucker unwitting gamblers into betting against him. Something of a Zen warrior, he keeps talk to a minimum, wanting only to fight and get paid. The film's deliberate pace allows one to appreciate the small details of his bone-crunching life, as well as the marvelously atmospheric city of New Orleans, which is a more important character than anyone but the protagonist. Cinematographer Philip Lathrop, who had previously shot the city in The Cincinnati Kid (1966), uses minimal lighting to give the film a subdued, slightly sinister feel. While as good as usual, James Coburn and Strother Martin are less characters here than elements of the local color.