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CHARLES BRONSON FIGHTS THROUGH WALTER HILL'S 'HARD TIMES'

Charles Bronson fights Bob Tessier in Walter Hill's HARD TIMES Year: 1975 Rating: ***1/2

For a director whose style would be eternally linked to the Action genre, Walter Hill's first feature HARD TIMES relies more on location, dialog, ambiance, and even the title leans on the REASON for sporadic cash-handed street fights than the inner-ingredients OF them...

Yet there are some terrific bare-knuckled boxing with a tremendously built Bronson looking thirty-five at the age of fifty-two, one year after hitting A-list big with DEATH WISH and if, say, a Michael Winner or J. Lee Thompson had directed, the brawls might've flowed looser alongside the character motivations to mean more than peripheral glimpses into why our central hero really doesn't say very much...

Michael McGuire with Strother Martin and James Coburn in HARD TIMES with M.C. Gainey in the background

But that's deliberately pretty much EVERYTHING here as he IS the strong silent type, and with such splendid exposition-spouting loudmouths like James Coburn as Bronson's wheeler-dealer manager and the always uniquely-askew Strother Martin as the pseudo doctor with bandages handy, no one else need speaking much anyway...

Not even Jill Ireland... slightly wooden but who does genuinely LOOK the 1930's throwback flapper-girl who may or may not be a prostitute... or Coburn's stylish moll Margaret Blye have that much input...

Charles Bronson and James Coburn in HARD TIMES

And overall Bronson doesn't play the hackneyed tough guy but a kind of parenthetical phantom that enters the life of Coburn's desperate hustler to unintentionally give him a piece of what was missing... 

Which includes RESPECT from filthy rich fight-promoting snob Michael McGuire, a sophisticated heavy backing muscular fist-chiselers like the always-formidable Robert Tessier... and all in vain...

Michael McGuire with Strother Martin and James Coburn in HARD TIMES

For what provides the beautifully-shot New Orleans-set Depression-era HARD TIMES, its heart also deletes any potential for thrills or suspense. Bronson's character always wins and WILL always win... 

But like Walter Hill's then-upcoming Western THE LONG RIDERS, this is more a picturesque tale of an antique past when men were men whilst providing sometimes stilted and limited homage into classic cinema when style and substance were all the same. To Hill it was the 1930's/1940's/1950's and to us, the 1970's. 

Charles Bronson with Strother Martin and James Coburn in HARD TIMES
Charles Bronson in Walter Hill's HARD TIMES
Charles Bronson fights Bob Tessier in HARD TIMES

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