When a series of brutal killings of young male hustlers awakens the police to the threat of a serial killer, rookie detective Raymond Fates (Noel Palomaria) and his seasoned partner ...
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John Alex Nunnery,
When a series of brutal killings of young male hustlers awakens the police to the threat of a serial killer, rookie detective Raymond Fates (Noel Palomaria) and his seasoned partner detective Tom Ellis (Charles Lanyer) battle an intolerant police department that is indifferent to these "misdemeanor killings. Written by
Newly-minted detective Raymond (aka "Ramon") Vates (Noel Palomaria) is walking a fine line between two worlds. A rookie promoted from the streets when another detective is caught 'in flagrante delicto' with a dead hooker (and is equally as dead as she is, by the way), Vates must learn to live and work with the jaded, nihilistic, testosterone-laden meatheads who are his colleagues, while he conceals his biggest secret: he himself is gay.
He somehow manages to walk with one foot in both worlds, until a series of murders he is investigating with his new partner, Det. Tom 'Lucky' Ellis, (Charles Lanyer), brings his entire world crashing down. He's taunted, enraged, aroused and entranced by an alleged witness named Jack (the disturbingly good Malcolm Moorman), whom he picks up in a bar for a night of wildly passionate sex. When he wakes up, though, he discovers that Jack isn't merely the "screw-and-run" type. No, more like "screw-run-and-kill". Because he reveals himself to a handcuffed Vates to be the serial killer that he and Lucky have been hunting, just before he steals the captive detective's badge and issues a challenge: Can Ray face what he fears most - being exposed to the department and to the world as a gay cop? Because that's exactly what it will take to catch the deranged Jack.
From the very first scene, HARD immediately lets you know that it's not going to be your average gay thriller, and with its harsh message sharply delivered like a ball-peen hammer blow to the solar plexus, it goes way beyond the trappings of a noxious thriller like William Friedkin's reviled CRUISING, which had similar things to say about homophobia and indifference, only with a more exploitative bent.
It probably helped me appreciate this movie all the more that I saw the 'new' "FRIDAY THE 13TH" remake beforehand. After ninety minutes of practically mindless wall-to-wall gratuitous sex and nudity, followed by the spectacle of cardboard characters I could care less about being made into human sushi, it was refreshing to see scenes that were a lot more intense and better acted, produced with what probably equaled the catering budget on "FRIDAY".
Sure, the acting wasn't exactly Oscar-caliber and the low-budget seams were definitely showing. But Noel Palomaria's Ray Vates is an earnest, hard-working guy who only wants to do his job to the best of his ability and maybe have a life beyond it without the risk of being persecuted, while Malcolm Moorman's Jack has turned his back on the slightest possibility of love, embracing instead the virulent hatred he feels society has for him and all his kind, using it as the weapon of choice to do "exactly what everyone wants him to do", and never feel any remorse about it whatsoever. More than any other actors in the film, Palomaria and Moorman's scenes together crackle with dangerous chemistry, which is a big part of why the film works.
Lanyer lends solid support as Lucky, while the other actors are pretty much stock company-level. But that's not the important thing. HARD delivers its message loud and clear for those open-minded and thoughtful enough to listen. It is not delivered in a polite, cultured or genteel way, but it's not supposed to be, and couldn't be in order to get people's attention. And it's my hope that more viewers will take notice, since what it has to say is more topical and timely now than ever before.
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