Hard Country (HC) is about the hardscrabble existence of Kyle (Jan Michael Vincent) and his girlfriend Jodie (Kim Basinger in her movie debut). On the surface HC just appears to be a slice of life about a couple of rednecks from Texas, but under the surface it has an underlying theme of women empowering themselves. Although Tanya Tucker (the reason that I rented this movie) has only a small part in the movie, her appearance in HC is an integral plot point.
HC begins with Kyle doing manual labor in a chain link fence factory as the title song, written by Michael Martin Murphey (who also co-wrote the movie) plays over the credits. After a hard day of work Kyle takes his girlfriend Jodie to the local club. It's Kyle and Jodie's one year dating anniversary and he gives her what he thinks is the perfect present - a small pin of a Lone Star Beer bottle. This seems to please Jodie, so I guess this is an acceptable gift for a one year anniversary in Texas!!!!
Appearing on stage at the club is a special guest, Caroline (Tanya Tucker), who left town and became a big star. Tanya sings one song by herself and does a duet with Michael Martin Murphey. Caroline is an old friend of Jodie's and she and her manager Ransom (Lewis Van Bergen) go back home with Kyle and Jodie. Jodie and Caroline go off in another room to talk about old times and this where we find that Caroline is the only one of a group of friends that followed her dreams. Jodie wanted to be an airline stewardess, but things didn't work out for her due to some family problems and now she's got Kyle, who really thinks a woman's place is in the home. This scene is where Caroline/Tanya plays a pivotal part in the movie when she tells Caroline "A woman who needs space for herself gets out of Texas. It's a great place to be from and a great place to come home to but you've gotta leave it first, before it smothers you." and "In Texas, we're the only piece of property a man has left to defend." These comments weigh heavy on Caroline and really get her to thinking about what she wants out of life.
The rest of HC deals with Jodie trying to assert her independence from not only Kyle but from her own family. She finally has to turn her back on both and realize that she has to become her own woman and not worry about everyone else. Once she shows Kyle that she doesn't want to leave him, but will if that's what it takes to fulfill her own dreams, Kyle actually comes to some self realization of his own.
I probably made this movie sound a lot more serious than it really is, the message is actually just an undercurrent theme in the movie until toward the end. HC includes a lot of humor, most of it revolving around Kyle's best friend Johnny Bob (Gailard Sartain). Lewis Van Bergen appears twice in HC doing a great turn as the sleazy manager. Speaking of doing a great turn, Michael Parks as Kyle's successful, but unhappy brother, really brings his "A" game to HC. There are a lot of musical performances on stage at the club throughout the movie by Michael Martin Murphey and one with Katy Moffatt. HC also includes a fight, a huge practical joke, a beer drinking contest, romance, a car chase, and some dramatic moments. I hate to use the old cliche, but HC really does have something for everyone.