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The Hard Way
cast: Patrick McGoohan, Lee Van Cleef, Peter Brayham, Joe Lynch, and Edna O'Brien

director: Michael Dryhurst

87 minutes (15) 1979
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
Irish film noir: starting a sentence with those three words would seem like the prelude for a joke involving a film made by some slapstick Irishman who forgot to remove the lens cap, but in the case of The Hard Way it is an apt description of this late-1970s British TV movie which has been released on DVD this month.

Michael Dryhurst directed this dark movie and, whilst time has not been kind to some elements of it, the direction has stood the test of time. John Connor (the late Patrick McGoohan) is a hitman in Ireland. He kills for a living, he is not a political idealist, he is a killer, but he has retired. That position is challenged by McNeal (the also late Lee Van Cleef) who wants Connor to carry out some work on his behalf. The tension, understated yet electric, that ensues is a joy to watch.

'Let me tell you about a time when Lee Van Cleef was in an Irish film noir', is another sentence seemingly taking the joke analogy earlier just too far; however, a man whose CV includes successful western, war and even roles as a ninja master can turn his hand to almost anything - and Van Cleef is excellent in The Hard Way. His role and performance are a treat.

As for Patrick McGoohan, arguably his most famous role was as the bubble-avoiding prisoner in the cult programme of the same name. There are certainly parallels between The Hard Way and The Prisoner from a character perspective and it is easy to see why he was cast in this role. Clearly, McGoohan and Van Cleef has mastered that distant and cold character trait, even the beauty of the Irish countryside couldn't warm the hearts of their characters in this movie.

The music of Brian Eno adds a haunting soundtrack to The Hard Way and compliments the sparse use of dialogue and excellent use of scenery brilliantly. In addition, even as it ambles along at an almost sedentary pace, the movie itself is alive with interludes of action and intrigue. There are a plethora of questions the viewer is continually asking about John Connor, some of them are never answered and left to you to decide why some things are as they are yourself.

The Hard Way is an excellent movie, the nihilism of the main characters is perfectly captured by director Michael Dryhurst and the edgy undertone throughout is both tragic and alluring. DVD extras leave a bit to be desired, but to be fair that's not why you would buy a movie such as this.
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