In the middle of the Great Depression, Chaney (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) is just looking to catch a break. When he meets Speed (James Coburn, The Magnificent Seven), a promoter of bare-knuckle street fighting, Chaney thinks with his fighting skill and Speed’s savvy, he might have a chance. But Speed has his own problems, and what seemed like a sure thing is not as simple. Directed by Walter Hill (48 Hrs.), and also starring Jill Ireland (The Mechanic, 1972) and Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke), HARD TIMES is a gritty, compelling drama.
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Walter Hill's colorful directorial debut has quite a cult following for its toughness and violence; it may well be his best film, in fact. Charles Bronson plays a silent street fighter in New Orleans in the '30s managed by the cool James Coburn. Jill Ireland, Strother Martin, and Michael McGuire costar in this spare existential Depression dirge. It owes a lot to its noir origins that Hill adores so much, yet there's something very fresh and vital about its subject and approach. That's really what made so many of these films from the '70s so endearing. An added bonus is the love and affection displayed by the real-life husband and wife team of Bronson and Ireland. --Bill Desowitz
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