A drifter joins up with a fast-talking gambler to shake up the
illegal prize-fighting scene of Depression Era New Orleans.
Hard Times (1975)
Directed by Walter Hill
Written by Walter Hill, Bryan Gindoff, Bruce Henstell
Starring Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland,
Strother Martin, Margaret Blye, Michael McGuire,
Bruce Glover, Robert Tessier, Nick Dimitri
Hard Times is every bit a guy movie, so much so that the two women in the film have literally no effect on the film's outcome. This is a film built entirely around the idea that Charles Bronson is a badass, which is entirely true and indisputable. Despite his small amount of dialogue, Bronson's chemistry with James Coburn is the star of the film. Together, they turn what should be a half-forgotten fight flick into a perfect showcase for Bronson's badassery and Coburn's smoothness, complete with over-the-top fight scenes and generic villains.
Bronson plays a drifter named Chaney, who decides to partner up with a fast-talker named Speed (Coburn) in order to make some money fighting in illegal organized street fights. It's a simple enough plot that is unaffected by both Jill Ireland and Margaret Blye, who play the romantic interests to the two leads. Remarkably, they exist for no apparent reason in this film. I'm hammering that point home because it astounds me. Why are they there at all? But I digress. The fight scenes in Hard Times are fun to watch, even if they are predictable as hell. Of course Bronson is gonna win. He's the nameless stranger everybody's rooting for. Still, it's fun to try and notice each time one of the fighters reacts to a painfully obvious fake punch.
With all of these negatively sounding things in the film, you're probably wondering where the high score came from. Well, I'll tell you, if only because you took the time to read my review of an obscure Charles Bronson movie from 1975. Hard Times knows exactly what it is and doesn't try to be anything else. It's a movie about street fights starring a man who rarely says anything in almost every movie he's in. This film excels in that respect, winning me over with each rocky punch thrown into the wind. It's not difficult to like, it's just fun to watch.