Working my way through director Walter Hill‘s back catalogue brings me to his debut film, the Charles Bronson smasher from 1975, Hard Times. With The Warriors being by far my most watched film of his I’ve found out this guy has a real knack for making good honest action films for the boys. The next two on the tick off list are Streets Of Fire (1984) and Johnny Handsome (1989). Plus I’m looking forward to re-watching The Driver as I haven’t seen it for donkey years and can’t remember the plot. That would bring me to seeing all his 70’s and 80’s film’s. Also toying with the idea of watching Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) and Wild Bill (1995), any good? Have you seen either of those two?
In comes drifter Mr Walnut head himself, the formidable Charles Bronson, a man with awesome screen presence which gives him the ability to play the strong silent type. Bronson plays Chaney a character we don’t find too much about but get the impression he’s just happy being in The Littlest Hobo mode. But instead of helping people in need, he punches his way to a few dollars and then moves right along.
Set around the 1930’s in New Orleans, (I’m guessing New Orleans in 1975 still looked like the 1930’s? as the set are incredible) Chaney stumbles across the bare knuckle fighting syndicates in the back streets and factories around town. He takes note of one of the promoters, a hustling wheeler dealer and the man with the human LOL emoji smile, the one and only James Coburn, going by the name Speed. Speed is a cocky loose canon with a loud mouth and bundles of confidence.
Tagline – NEW ORLEANS, 1933. In those days words didn’t buy much
Speeds introduces us to the cut man, Doc Poe (Strother Martin) who informs our Chaney that he has hybred fists made for clubbing and a face structure less prone to cutting. With the three of these guys fronting money for their prize boxer, the team is all together. Now all that’s needed is a few fights to get them nearer to the big test, a certain crazy baldy fighter by the name of Jim Henry (Robert Tessier), a forever smiling brute of a man.
Speed – You know, Chick, no matter what you do, you’ll always smell like fish.
Can our three guys keep it together amongst the loan sharks, muscle men and gambling, to win the big bucks? Can our punching hero defeat the intimidating street fighting challenges to become victorious?
The fight scenes are fierce and raging. Bruising powerhouse punches rain down, reverberating off skulls and into ribcages. Muscle bound slabs and slams and thunderclap crushing blows fly around in real fashion, surely a few of these got thrown for real? It made for some realistic and extremely effective fight scenes to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Fun Fact – There’s a nice little moment when the gentle giant pops up with the name credited to Hammerman. A guy who always makes me smile since first seeing him on Sylvester Stallone’s 1978 film Paradise Alley as the wrestler Big Glory. This hulk of a man with a soft face and kind demeanor is Frank McRae a former NFL player built like a brick shithouse. He would pop up in films like Batteries Not Included, National Lampoon’s Vacation and another Sly film Lock Up to name a few.
Anyhow get watching this fun action drama as soon as you can if like me and you left it a bit late. It’s a superb piece of filmmaking with a great cast. Crack open a few beers, pile the tomato sauce and mustard on those hot dogs and keep roll the films.
Poe – Let’s go get the cat!
All the best…. Mikey Wolfman
Further Reading Links