Lots and lots of gags. Not complaining. Also the world's shortest armadillo hunt.
This statement is 100% correct. Really, there is not much of a story to this one, as it's just Keaton being a wanderer who, as Paul says, runs into consistent failure, or as the title states, "hard luck." At first he's suicidal, then that's forgotten about as he continues roaming around. This film almost works as a strange dream, though it's never stated to be one. As for suicide, this theme was explored a year earlier in Harold Lloyd's HAUNTED SPOOKS, and if you don't know the production history of that film, please go to Google now. You will be fascinated.
Lack of a story is really no big deal, as everything flows perfectly together, Keaton is always enjoyable to watch (this film might not work with a lesser comedian), and the gags are consistently great. For years, every time I see two headlights on the road at night, I wonder if it can be a motorcycle instead of a car, so that gag has definitely left an impression. The business with the horse and bear is wonderful, and Keaton on the horse, hand across forehead, sureveying the area, is an iconic Keaton image to me. Speaking of gags that left impressions, putting bullets into a burning stove that blasts bad guys, or going fishing and using a small fish to grab a bigger fish a few times over...Three Stooges gags. Keaton is an influence again. Also enjoy the cat and mouse game Keaton and Joe Roberts play with each other when Roberts slowly stalks an aware Keaton, similarly done in CONVICT 13. As far as the high dive gag, you guys talked about the history of it, and when I got into Keaton a little over 15 years ago, this footage was only found a few years before.
A nice short overall, there truly is not one single silent solo Keaton film I'd label as below par. Some are just better than others.