Nadia (Katerina Tsavalou) is a pretty, spunky sixteen year old. Martha (Danai Skiadi) is seventeen, a little more world weary and a little more morose, but no less attractive despite her somber attitude. The two of them work as call girls for a pimp (Andreas Marianos) who takes care of a wide range of clients. While Martha has been there a year already, Nadia is new to the job and seems to be setting the clients on fire – she's constantly in demand and the boss treats her better than any of his other employees.
It takes a while for the two girls to start talking but once they do, they develop a pretty fast friendship that soon blossoms into something a little more. Despite the fact that they're both 'dating' two of the rent boys that they work with, Nadia and Martha are starting to fall in love. Nadia's got ambition, drive and energy – she wants to be remembered and be a somebody, she loves the attention and she loves to have people want her. Martha on the other hand is the quiet type who yearns for something resembling a normal family, if there is such a thing. The girls party a lot, cocaine is a popular past time with them and with their two boy toys, and soon they shack up together in an apartment of their own, out from under the thumb of their boss at least in their time away from work.
When Nadia's boyfriend, Argyris, comes home with a gun that a john gave to him as a gift, she gets an idea in her head and it's not long before she's talked Argyris and Martha into accompanying her back to the office one night, to get revenge against their employer when he stiffed Nadia and Martha for a nights work that took a turn for the bizarre. When the boss ends up dead, along with two prostitutes, Nadia manages to shift all of the blame onto Argyris so that she and Martha can take off and enjoy their new found notoriety – or at least Nadia's new found notoriety. As she becomes the apple of the public's eye, weaving a tragic tale of how she and Martha were used and abused by their employer and his clients, Martha becomes more and more removed from the girl she still has feelings for.
Filmed in some of the seedier parts of Athens, this Greek arthouse drama succeeds not so much in its tried and true story of youth gone wild and tragic revenge but on the strength of its two lead performers. The film does an interesting job of bringing us into the world that these girls live in. We see them enjoying time together away from work but we also see them with their clients, which isn't always pretty or glamorous. We get to know their personalities through the conversations that they share and through those same conversations we're exposed to their ambitions and their two very different takes on what makes one successful in life. We follow them from the dregs of prostitution up to Nadia's brush with legitimate fame and fortune and as their story unfolds it's pretty easy to become quite engrossed in their story. Of course, it all ends on a less than happy note as one bad decision after the other brings their world to a grinding halt but you know that their relationship is doomed from the very moment it starts. It all unfolds very much like a traditional Greek tragedy, just with more hot pants, lesbianism, beat heavy dance music, orgy scenes, and coke snorting than usual.
Directed by Dennis Iliadis, the film also benefits from some interesting pacing techniques. When Martha dreams of her happy family life to come, or at least that she expects to come, she compares it to a certain popular American television show and at that point in the film we see the two girls and the two rent boys behaving in a manner that will appear all too familiar to anyone whose brain has been rotted by American network sitcoms like mine has. It's a clever comparison and one that adds some much needed humor to the storyline. The cinematography is at times stark and harsh and at other times quite soft and pretty – compare the opening scene where Nadia is getting slammed from behind by one of her clients who throws her around like a ragdoll to the scene where the two girls get away for some time alone at the beach and you can see that this is very much a movie filled with contrasting imagery, which makes sense considering that the storyline is based around the contrast between the two main characters.
At times the film is quite gratuitous and it borders quite closely on exploitation fare but it doesn't quite go far enough to really push you out of the film. If the movie has one flaw it's that we all know where it's going very early on, which makes it a pretty predictable storyline and as such it isn't as tense or moving as it could have been where there an unforeseen twist or two. The camera work and interesting character make up for that though, as does the very human dialogue and the oddball supporting characters.
Strand's 1.85.1 non-anamoprhic widescreen transfer is rather murky, possibly from a PAL to NTSC conversion, and it suffers from some mild motion blurring. There's a fair bit of grain and some mild compression artifacts in the image as well, and the colors look less vibrant than they probably should (though that might be an artistic choice on the cinematographers end as it suits the tone of the film). While the image is watchable, it doesn't look so hot on this DVD and for a film that honestly isn't that old, the picture is in rougher shape than you'd probably expect. Skin tones look pretty decent though, and the scenes that take place outdoors look notably better than those that take place inside where the conditions are noticeably bleaker and more washed out.
The audio is presented in a nice and simple Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix in its native Greek language with optional subtitles in English that are free of any typographical errors and easy to read. While there isn't a ton of channel separation, you'll pick it up a few times and the music in particular comes through very nicely on this mix. The film has moments that are very dialogue heavy then other moments where no one speaks for a few minutes at all and this mix proves capable of handling the louder scenes as well as the quieter ones as well, where only the ambient noise of what's happening in the background is audible. This isn't home theater demo material here, but this mix is pretty solid.
While this isn't a full fledged special edition, Strand has wrangled up a few extra features for this release. First up are a handful of deleted scenes. While these don't contain any earth shattering revelations or any material that will change the film for you, there are some interesting character development bits tucked away in here that make them worth checking out. A music video for the main song that plays over the menu and during the film is also included, as is a teaser and a full length trailer for the film (both in Greek with no English subtitles). Finally, trailers for four other unrelated DVD releases from Strand can also be found in the extras section.
While the transfer leaves a little to be desired and the extra features aren't all that enticing, Hardcore is an interesting look at wasted youth and wasted love. The performances are good, the direction is slick, and the cinematography is consistently intriguing. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.