James Coburn and Charles Bronson are two of the most iconic faces of American post-war cinema. Both made their names in action films, but by 1975 Coburn was in the twilight of their career whilst Bronson still had some of his most profitable years ahead of him. Walter Hill’s directorial debut, Hard Times, was not the first time they’d starred together in a film. However, unlike The Magnificent Seven or The Great Escape, it was a time that Bronson was the most bankable actor.
Speed (Coburn) is a gambler and raconteur, living on his wits and making money from illegal street fighting. When the unlikely Chaney (Bronson) rolls into town with six dollars to his name, Speed gives him a chance. Despite being older than his peers, Chaney proves to be more than capable ‘in the ring’. Along with cutman Poe (Strother Martin), the trio begin to have a string of successes, but the illegal world of bare-knuckle fighting is haphazard and dangerous at best.
Hard Times is an assured and understated film. Hill, who went on to make The Driver, 48/Another 48 Hrs and Red Heat, ensures a rather sombre and resigned atmosphere prevails. Set during the Great Depression, there’s a desperation and malaise throughout. Heston does most of his work through his body language and facial expressions but when the fights start he’s more than up to the task. Hard Times paints a vivid picture of an era and those who did whatever it took to survive.
- New 4K restoration
- Uncompressed PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
- A new interview with producer Lawrence Gordon
- A new interview with composer Barry DeVorzon
- NFT Audio Interview with director Walter Hill
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring new and archival writing
Hard Times is released on Dual Format by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on Monday 24 April.