March 30, 2016
I first saw a trailer for this a month or two ago, I forget which movie it was attached to, but some guy behind me got all giddy saying “I bet this was inspired by video games.” Well, that seems obvious enough. The big question is can they shoot in a way that keeps it comprehensible and give it a story that is involving enough to care. The answer to that is: not really, they try, but ultimately this style of film making needs a little bit of work. At the same time, I do not see this really spawning any run of first person films like what Blair Witch Project did for found footage. Also, I am not sure I’d want to see a lot of these type of movies.
This early screening of the movie was attended by some folks from the studio, wanting to see how the screening went, and featured men in suits at the door, a few patrolling the side aisles of the theater, and a special food menu (including deep fried bacon cheesecake, and a cocktail consisting of Jagermeister, tequila blanco, Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Fireball). Of course, the cheesecake sold out too fast for me to sample, which might have been for the best.
The movie began and the opening credits brought gobs of slow-motion violence, people getting punched in the face, bullets entering bodies, and most notably a knife going through a neck. Yes, quite pleasant, and a taste of the sort of thing we would be seeing for the next 90-minutes.
We are introduced to our main character as he awakens in some sort of tank. A woman tells him his name is Henry, as she attaches a robotic arm and leg she also tells him her name is Estelle (Haley Bennett) and that they are married. Before long, the lab they are in is attacked and Henry (who is unable to speak) is out of the lab and on the run, pursued by scores of gunmen and a white-haired bad guy called Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) who sports the power of telekinesis. Also, they have taken Estelle prisoner and Henry needs to find out what Akan is up to and get his wife back. Along the way, Henry gets help from a strange fellow named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley, District 9, The A-Team) who guides him on his quest.
Hardcore Henry is a fast paced film, but it is not one I found very involving. I actually found it alternatingly interesting and obnoxious. It is almost exactly like watching someone play a FPS (first person shooter, for those who may be unfamiliar), and I have never found watching someone play a game to be all that interesting. It is funny, as there are stretches of action and sneaking around interrupted by elements of exposition, a character showing up to relay a bit of information, or tell them where the need to go, or where to find equipment needed to get to the next area.
The problem is that this is a movie and not a game. They do not work the same way. Our main character never speaks and cannot really show any emotion, considering the point of view. This prevents us from connecting with the person we are supposed to be cheering for. Sure, we can be thrilled or excited by the amount of violence he is dealing, or the death being doled out, but unlike a game, we are not playing, we are not given the ability to get invested in the story or to imprint our personalities on Henry like you can in a game.
There is not much to the story, the entire thing is tied to the gimmick and the action. The action is sometimes hard to follow, but they do some neat stuff along the way with the perspective. But after awhile, I just didn’t care, interesting action only goes so far. Then there is Sharlto Copley, I love this guy. He is working his butt off in this movie in what is a very strange role, he makes it work, delivering comedy, action, and general zaniness.
Hardcore Henry is a movie that is equally interesting and annoying. It is an experience worth checking out and does deliver some good action sequences. The overall story is not all that deep or involving. The perspective does not help with depth, it is not like you can see his face or his reactions. It is an interesting gimmick, but it is a gimmick. It is a style that sort of limits storytelling and forces style. This is a step in a direction that may be worth exploring on occasion, just give it some space in between attempts. In the meantime, check out that Maniac film for an unsettling first person experience.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 3/30/2016 10:35:00 PM
Labels: 2010s, 2016, Action, Haley Bennett, Movie Review, Science Fiction, Sharlto Copley, Theatrical Release, Tim Roth
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.