Sunday, May 29, 2016

'Hardcore Henry' Is a Visually Groundbreaking Action Movie

Hardcore Henry is about a man named Henry who wakes up in a flying laboratory above Moscow.  He has no memory of how he got there or his past, but he learns that he died and has been brought back to life as a cyborg by a woman who claims to be his wife, Estelle (Haley Benett).  But before Henry can learn more about his new life, a telekinetic psychopath named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and his henchmen storms in.  Henry manages to escape but Estelle is abducted.  With the help of the enigmatic Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), Henry begins adjusting to his new body, and goes on a tear to rescue his wife and stop Akan from unleashing his army of super-soldiers to the world.

The way Hardcore Henry was shot makes it a unique movie, at least visually.  The whole movie is filmed by a special camera mounted on the actors playing Henry (there are at least ten actors/stuntmen who shared the role of Henry).  Thus, the whole movie played out in first-person, in the perspective of Henry.  This has never been done before in a full-length feature, and the groundbreaking technique is what makes this movie appealing.

But because of the first-person perspective concept, I was expecting that the entire movie will unfold like a continuous, single-shot, one-take narrative.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  There are sharp, brief cuts – sometimes, even done in the same scene – which I found annoying.  This movie would have been incredible if it had seemingly run in one continuous take.
There’s something video game-y about Hardcore Henry.  And not only because the way it was shot makes it look like a first-person shooter game.  The tone, the soundtrack, the premise, the structure of the narrative, the action sequences, the plot twists, and the quality of the characters give the vibe of an early 2000’s Playstation game.

This movie is packed with exciting stunt work and fight scenes.  It has some interesting plot elements, but it doesn’t have an amazing script to complement the action.  Thus, the story easily falls into campy territory.  But that doesn’t mean the movie begin to suck at some point.  No, it’s amply fun all throughout.  And in a way, if its video game essence is embraced, the story actually works.

That said, I understand how others, even if they originally loved it at the start, might eventually tire of the novelty of the “first-person view.”  And without a brilliant story to fall back to, the movie can lose their interest.  However, I personally find the action and video game-like narrative enough to keep me absorbed.

In the end, Hardcore Henry is a must watch, not necessarily because it’s a thoroughly well-crafted film, but its unique style makes the experience of watching it – at least once – extremely worth it.

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