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When a series of brutal killings of young male hustlers awakens the police to the threat of a serial killer rookie detective Raymond Vates (Noel Palomaria) and his seasoned partner detective Tom Ellis (Charles Lanyer) battle an intolerant police department that is indifferent to these "misdemeanor killings". Jack (Malcolm Moorman) Is the killing machine seeking out the runaways and other lost souls who gather around the hot glow of Hollywood's neon underworld leaving a wake of mutilated bodies behind him. No other movie has ever captured the essence of the psychopathic sadist's mind with the precision of HARD.System Requirements:Running Time: 90 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DRAMA/CRIME & CRIMINALS UPC: 798622348326 Manufacturer No: WLV3483
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Newly-promoted Detective Ray Vates (co-producer and star Noel Palomaria) is almost immediately thrust into a grisly serial murder case with his hard-bitten partner (Charles Lanyer), involving the brutal mutilation and murder of a string of male hustlers and teen runaways in the seediest areas of Los Angeles. Compounding the difficulties he faces in this investigation - no viable witnesses, virulently homophobic colleagues - is the secret that Ray carries himself: he's deeply in the closet to everyone (except for his ex-wife).
While canvassing a gay bar for witnesses, one of the same kinds of bars he frequents in his off-duty hours, Ray encounters Jack (Malcolm Moorman), a handsome, charismatic patron who contacts Ray again and challenges him about his "secret identity." Their rough, antagonistic second meeting sparks irresistible sexual chemistry between the two men, and a night of passionate sex ensues. The cold morning light brings even more chilling reality with it, when Ray discovers that Jack is the serial killer he's been hunting all along, and a smirking Jack steals the detective's badge, taunting him to "come and find me."
But that means that Ray is forced to confront his greatest fear - coming out to everyone in the precinct and to the world, something he's left no choice but to do, and a decision that leaves him vulnerable, reviled and ostracized by everyone save his straight partner, whose help Ray will rely on as the desperate game of cat-and-mouse between him and Jack escalates, leading to a suspenseful and chilling climax.
Regardless of the technical and creative shortcomings, HARD is definitely an admirable effort from the team of Palomaria, John Huckert and John Matkowsky. The writing is insightful, sharp and well-researched, incorporating the aspects, habits and psyche of a serial killer in an alarmingly realistic way that not even SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or SEVEN did. The sadomasochistic relationship between Jack and the bisexual married man whose home and family he completely takes over, recalls episodes from the life of Henry Lee Lucas and his lover/accomplice, Otis Toole. And several close encounters Jack has with the police, with his intended victims in plain sight, intentionally reference documented events that took place in the Jeffrey Dahmer case.
The production values and cinematography are outstanding for a film with such a limited budget, and acting-wise, Palomaria as Ray Vates, Malcolm Moorman as Jack and Charles Lanyer as "Lucky", Jack's partner all carry the film admirably with their understated but committed performances.
Lovers of gritty crime dramas would find much to like here, if they can accept that HARD is completely uncompromising about scenes that will make more than a few viewers balk even more than the violence...especially the depictions of men having sex together. This is not a politically-correct, Hollywood-sanitized product for mass-market appeal. Much like BASIC INSTINCT took an unblinking look at the sexual proclivities of its flawed hero and voraciously promiscuous anti-heroine, HARD does the same for its main characters as well.
And as for the violence, the film takes the tried-and-true classic "less is more" approach, which is incredibly effective. The killings, torture and rape are seen more after-the-fact, letting the viewers' minds fill in the blanks and making what little on-screen brutality that is shown that much more effective.
The filmmakers have flung down a gauntlet that the big-name "players" of the industry would never accept, and in a way, I'm glad. HARD is intended to be the first part of a trilogy, and I certainly hope that the production team gets their chance to complete it. The characters of Ray and Jack are memorable enough that you do wind up wanting to know what happens to them after the end of this film. It's certainly HARD not to think about it...