For his second film as writer/director, Paul Schrader merged elements of his Midwestern Dutch Calvinist background, his cinephilia, and California post-'60s sexual decadence in the bleak drama Hardcore. Modeled -- like Taxi Driver (1976) -- after John Ford's seminal Western The Searchers (1956), Hardcore's story of a pious father's search for his runaway daughter takes an intense George C. Scott from his upstanding Michigan home through the sordid wilderness of the California porn world. Scott's revulsion is matched by the film's morbid fascination with the sex industry. Peter Boyle's unsavory private investigator and Season Hubley's strung-out hooker serve as compelling protectors and guides. True to the Ford antecedent, Scott's daughter resists her rescue, but the clumsily incongruous ending carries none of The Searchers' or Taxi Driver's expressive ambiguity. Even with its flaws, however, Hardcore's stolidly mournful, occasionally complex examination of a cultural dark side is almost everything Joel Schumacher's ultra-sleazy porn odyssey 8MM (1999) wants to be but isn't.