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The Hard Way (1979)

TV Movie  |   |  Thriller  |  June 2010 (UK)
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A professional assassin is coerced into taking on one last job.



, (as Richard F. Tombleson)
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Title: The Hard Way (TV Movie 1979)

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Complete credited cast:
Edna O'Brien ...
Ronan Wilmot ...
Kevin Flood ...
Joe Lynch ...
Michael Muldoon ...
John Cowley ...
Graveyard Caretaker
1st Mercenary
Richard McAdoo ...
2nd Mercenary
Peter Brayham ...
French Hitman
Mesag Muruko ...
Father Cressy


A professional assassin is coerced into taking on one last job.

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hitman | three word title | See All (2) »







Release Date:

June 2010 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Camino dificil  »

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Premier Cru
Music by Reg Tilsley
De Wolfe Music Ltd
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User Reviews

Tragic, poignant, and definitely under-rated - less is more
25 July 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

'Less is more.' A Tribute to The Hard Way and to Patrick McGoohan.

Since happening upon this film a few years ago – when I managed to win it at auction for just a few pounds - I have become so obsessed with it that I have made pilgrimages all over Ireland in order to pay homage to it, and to its leading actor, Patrick McGoohan. He is, sadly, no longer with us, along with many of the other fine actors who make up the supporting cast (Lee Van Cleef; Donal McCann; Peter Brayham; Joe Lynch). The re-release of the film on DVD, almost 30 years to the day of its original screening, is long overdue – but better late than never! It may have taken a very long time but the best things in life are always worth waiting for.

In writing this review, I have struggled long and hard to articulate my feelings into words. I hope that I do justice both to the film and to Patrick McGoohan. I believe that this appearance is arguably his finest, most understated and underrated acting role ever.

The plot ambles along; it is heavy and slow; there is hardly any dialogue, and very little action. Anyone looking for a fast moving 'gangster' movie peppered with gunfire (as the trailer included in the DVD's special features seems to suggest) will certainly be disappointed.

The use of speech is so sparse it is almost conspicuous by its absence. Most of the scenes are eerily quiet. However, this only serves to build up the tension. The use of body language to convey mood and meaning is very subtly done; especially in the bar room 'stand off' between the two main protagonists. The way in which John Connor (Patrick McGoohan) gently menaces his 'handler' McNeal (Lee Van Cleef), and resists the latter's attempts at persuasion with a quiet, stubborn resolve, is just breathtaking to watch. I can only applaud when the former leaves with quiet dignity, then slams the bar room door behind him to signify, and release, his clearly pent-up anger. That beats any 'shoot out' I've ever seen! In my opinion, Patrick McGoohan's portrayal of the Irish mercenary who wants to retire is extremely sympathetic. He shows a man who is not just a cold-blooded killer. John Connor is very human, and has many redeeming qualities, including that of moral courage – borne out in the parting words of Kathleen (Edna O'Brien), John Connor's estranged wife, in the final scene – "A waste of a man." I have to admit that, in spite of his past deeds, I have to weep for the man – I can't help it. Such is the power of the actor's presence and the skill with which he takes on the mantle of this complex character.

In this respect, great credit must also be given to the skillful direction of Michael Dryhurst. Having heard that the actor and the director were very like-minded, I can well believe it when I watch the results.

In addition, the stunning cinematography of Henri Decae enhances the production. Sweeping panoramic shots of the Irish countryside and the mountains contrast sharply with the claustrophobic and depressing settings of seedy hotels and dark, dingy city streets. The way the scenes are lit is also very creative and effective.

The accompanying soundtrack consists of just three pieces, all of them instrumental, and each is cleverly employed to illustrate the mood of their respective scenes. 'The Dear Irish Boy', an Irish air beautifully rendered by the solo violinist Tommy Potts, and 'Events in Dense Fog,' (from Brian Eno's 'Music for Films') which accompany John Connor's sad, reflective moments, and the forlorn speeches from his estranged wife, tug at the heartstrings and bring tears to the eyes. 'Patrolling Wire Borders,' also from Music for Films (not 'A Measured Room', as is stated on the film credits), is spine-tingling, stark and sinister and is well suited to the more grimly cynical scenes of violence and turmoil in the twilight world of the jaded hit man.

Very little is explained to us. There is so much we don't know; for instance, how did a man like John Connor become a mercenary? Why are his children in apparent exile in the States? And why did Kathleen, his estranged wife, then remain behind in Ireland? But somehow, this isn't all that important to know; in fact, it can only add to the appeal of the film. Not being spoon fed such details somehow piques the appetite – and that's partly why I chose not to reveal too much about the plot in this review.

To cut a long story short; less is definitely more in this case. Please take the time to watch this film; be patient; and make sure you read between the lines.

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