Kevin returns home from work, showers, and is greeted by his girlfriend Sarah before she knocks his ass out with an iron wrapped in a pillowcase. He later wakes up to find himself bound and gagged. Turns out Sarah isn't much of a girlfriend, as she and her secret husband Jack take turns torturing Kevin. Eventually, Sarah starts to have second thoughts about what she's doing, forcing Jack to give her an ultimatum: Either kill Kevin, or rot alongside him.
Despite the title's name, HARD LOVE isn't a porno, nor is it some bad romantic comedy or drama. That's unfortunate, since I probably would've enjoyed it more. This 33-minute short by UK director/producer/writer Barry Wilkinson would've been a mean little film to watch had someone else been doing those duties. It's clear from the start that the short falls into a tried and true hole that many indie productions fall into, never able to get out.
First off, the acting by everyone involved is atrocious. Rob Benson doesn't do a hell of a lot as the helpless Kevin, other than moaning and screaming with a loosely-tied dishcloth for a gag around his mouth. Laura Moore sounds entirely uninspired and unconvincing from the very first scene. Lady, it doesn't help to make things convincing if you're supposed to be talking to your husband and your cellphone is off, nor does it help when trying to convey emotion, your face never changes from the same tired expression. Krish Kumar sounds as if he's reading from the terrible script half the time.
I should also point out that Rob Benson looks like a babyfaced, wussier version of Jason Statham. It didn't help things either way.
Next on the docket is the cinematography, which looked to be on less of a budget than the film itself. At no point is a steadycam or tripod ever used. It might seem organic, but it really comes off as robbing any sort of tension or potential for scaring. Add to that the use of the digital zooming on the camera, which feels totally out of place and makes the whole experience out to be an even bigger joke. Really, why start filming a scene, only to abruptly zoom in on the actor's face a few seconds later for no reason at all?
To complete the catastrophy, the foley and makeup effects are just sad. What is supposed to be rain sounds like someone drumming their fingers on a table really fast (in a loud, annoying way). When Kevin is being tortured with a hair curler to the ears, the sound of burning skin is never convincing (really, it sounds like someone going 'sssssssssss' in the mike), and the lack of any damage to the actor's ears really sells it (*cough*). Another sound involving a previous victim of Jack screaming before being shot sounds messy, but when Jack drags the body out, the guy looks like he passed out drunk, with no blood or gore! Hell, the guy can't even act dead the way he gently drops his feet to the floor when Jack lets go of him.
Honestly, I tuned out once Sarah went into an uninvolved monologue explaining why she and Jack are doing these things to people. Really, no explanation is given to what their motivation would be, other than a sort of twisted form of love that I didn't buy for a minute. Really, the speech was just confirmation that Sarah is (to quote my pal, Marcey) a 'stupid cow' of a character and that every aspect of this film sucks. No entertainment is to be had here. Please Mr. Wilkinson, go back to film school.
Video: Presented in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen, the video looks like something you'd get with a handicam. Grain pervades the entire image, with a serious lack of strong colour and detail overall. It's watchable, but it feels like you're watching outtakes from your parent's wedding.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track matches up to the quality of the video. It sounds as if the entire audio was recorded from the camera's on board mic, as anyone a fair distance from the camera sounds muffled along with a distinct whine and hiss throughout the track. I guess if your film looks like a film of your parent's wedding, if might as well sound like it, too.
The only extra is a deleted scene, which provides more reason for Kevin to escape. More of reading directly from the script and an equal lack of suspect acting ensues.
Odd that the trailer wasn't included, but that's probably a good thing, given its 'quality'.
It's amateur hour at its worst. HARD LOVE is hard to watch, and not because of the content. Rather, it's the lack thereof. Bad camerawork that can't decide whether it wants to be doing a documentary or a really bad home movie, and acting that rivals kindergarten Christmas pageants in quality makes this a chore to sit through. That's it, where's my rum and coke...