Scott plays Jake VanDorn, a successful, Christian business owner and father whose underage daughter goes missing during a school outing. She turns up in a short, hardcore pornographic 8mm film a few months later which, needless to say, crushes VanDorn. He hires a sleezy P.I., Andy Mast (a wonderfully world-weary Peter Doyle) to look into it when the police won't but Mast is as useless as the police and before too long Jake has had enough.
Once he mounts his own investigation into the case he drops into a world of sleaze, exploitation and violence which challenges his conservative world view.
Its powerful stuff, even now, regardless of its age, and Scott is fantastic as usual but it's Paul Schrader's show. His second outing as director, following Blue Collar, continues his penchant for an uncanny knack of unveiling the darkest aspects of the human condition.
The script never panders to simplicity. It's lean and mean and smart and better yet it treats its audience as smart.
All this underpinned by Jack Nitzche's ominous, grueling score and Michael Chapman's neon-slicked cinematography (he would get nominated for an Oscar for his work on Raging Bull the following year). Hardcore is a minor, unsung gem from the late 70s that's well worth a viewing.