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Few films held the Easy Rider generation in its sway as much as John Ford's brutal The Searchers (1956). From George Lucas (who pays homage with a similar homestead-burning in Star Wars) to Martin Scorsese (who featured clips of it in Mean Streets), it remains one of the most influential motion pictures ever made with John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, an ex-confederate soldier whose brother is murdered by Indians, who also take his niece into their tribe to make her a bride. On the five-year search to rescue her, one isn't sure if Ethan wants to save or kill her now that she's been "made native." And nowhere is the influence of Ford's masterpiece more firmly stamped than on Paul Schrader's Hardcore (1979). George C. Scott stars as Jake Van Dorn, a Dutch Calvinist whose life is thrown into disarray when his daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis) doesn't return from a school trip to Hollywood. At first, Jake hires private investigator Andy Mast (Peter Doyle) to find her, but Mast soon learns that Kristen somehow has entered the seamy world of porn loops. Relocating to California in a single-minded quest to rescue his daughter, Jake abandons his life as he's known it, delving into the hedonistic universe of sex that populates the underbelly of L.A., hoping that he'll find someone who knows something about Kristen. But as he immerses himself deeper into this dark American subculture (at one point even posing as a porn director), he grows even more disgusted, and like Ethan Edwards, it's hard to know if Jake will ever be able to separate himself, or his daughter, from the ugliness he's encountered. Paul Schrader — who similarly was raised in a Calvinist home, only to abandon it for cinema — has always held a simultaneous fascination and repulsion with the seamier, secret worlds of America; Hardcore is, to date, his starkest attempt to discuss his upbringing (though he's dealt with people in a similar state of revulsion and attraction often, and never better than in Auto Focus [2002]). And though Schrader's vision is obviously derivative, it's a powerful journey for his second directorial effort. Unfortunately, it would seem there were manners of perversion that star George C. Scott wasn't comfortable with — and the film plays against Scott's stoic performance to show more chinks in the character's armor. Nonetheless, Scott delivers a fine performance, but the picture is compromised by his reticence. Just the same, it's a story that's hard to shake. Columbia TriStar presents Hardcore in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and with monaural DD 2.0 audio. Bonus trailers, keep-case.

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