George C. Scott stars in HARDCORE
“Turn it off! Turn if off! TURN IT OFF!”
Paul Schrader followed up his intense directorial debut Blue Collar with this story about a businessman from Grand Rapids, Michigan named Jake Van Dorn (George C Scott) whose teenage daughter Kristen goes missing while on a religious themed trip to California. Van Dorn, who is from a Calvinist background, immediately begins looking for her and seeks help from a private eye Andy Mast (Peter Boyle). Mast soon discovers that Kristen has been pulled into the underground world of pornography. Van Dorn is shown a film she appears in and becomes enraged and even more determined to locate her. He soon goes undercover as a porn producer and gets to know more about that world and the people who inhabit it. His contacts send him to Niki (Season Hubley) a young hooker/porn actress who may know where Kristen is. Together, Van Dorn and Niki begin traveling to various locations where his daughter might be in hopes of saving her. The unlikely friendship between them begins to grow and is special in that Jake treats Niki as a person, not just a sex object. The two become a kind of temporary surrogate father/daughter as they work on finding Kristen.
Hardcore was based on a true story Schrader heard in his youth about a girl who went missing and later turned up acting in porno films. The film also revisits several reoccurring themes explored in Schrader’s screenplays for Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder such as the underbelly of society (criminals, pornography) and men who are disconnected from their emotions. To make the film even more personal, Schrader based Van Dorn on his own father, who, like the character, was a businessman from Grand Rapids, Michigan. In yet another connection to Van Dorn, Schrader himself came from a strict Calvinist religious upbringing and actually didn’t see a movie until he was seventeen.