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Hard Times

(1975, Hill)
A film with a title that starts with the letters G or H

"I don't look past the next bend in the road"

That's how hardened and stoic street fighter Chaney (Charles Bronson) describes himself to Lucy. Simply put, there's not much to say about Chaney, but he gets the job done, quick and efficiently. Which is something we can say about Walter Hill's debut film.

Set in the 1930s, Hard Times follows the struggles of Chaney, who moves from town to town making ends meet in illegal street fights. His pedigree and schedule sorta ramps up when he pairs up with Speed (James Coburn), a shady hustler that wants to make money off of him, which also puts him at odds with some dangerous elements.

Like Chaney, there's a simplicity to the film that I think works to its advantage. There's not a lot of figuring out what's going on. We just see this man go from fight to fight, and be supremely cool about it. There are attempts to flesh him out, particularly with his interactions with Lucy (Jill Ireland), a married woman with whom he gets involved. But there's not much around that bend for them either.

Speed, on the other hand, felt like a more complex character. I really liked how hard it was to peg him down, and I thought Coburn played that ambiguity really well. They are joined by Strother Martin, who plays Poe, a disgraced doctor that becomes Chaney's cutman, but as good as Martin is, he doesn't have much to do.

As Chaney moves up the ranks, he is often described as reliable and efficient. My experience with Hill's work is limited, but it seems that he abides by that same rule. Hard Times is not a complex film at all; it's rather simple. But it's as reliable and efficient as it can be, and much like those fights, a lot of fun to watch.