In Review: Hardcore Henry [R] ★★★★☆
I know I can be very picky about films, specifically action flicks, so when I sat down to watch this handheld (headheld) Go-Pro-shot action feature, I didn't bother buckling in. Some advice for those about to embark on this extreme adventure: Safety First.
Unlike any other action film most people have ever seen or even attempted to create, Hardcore Henry writer and director Ilya Naishuller has spring-boarded from his previous 2013 online viral short film/music video he made for his band, Biting Elbows, of the same genre, Bad Motherfucker, and engineered what can only be honestly described as a cinematic feat. Actors Andrei Dementiev (Henry) and Sharlto Copley (Jimmy) return to the helm to help man the incredible Crank-esque movie. Dementiev appeared at an event during SXS (South by Southwest) sporting his Go Pro camera... On his face. Interestingly, Dementiev is almost never seen throughout the entire film! Copley, who may be remembered for his fantastic performance in the film District 9, said in an interview that this was a unique challenge and was all in after watching the music video.
The plot is simple enough to follow: Henry, a man who has woken up in a lab with no recollection of his past is reconstructed by a lovely female scientist who explains that she and him know each other, he just can't remember. As the tale unfolds, we meet odd yet helpful characters who help Henry on his quest to a bloody self rediscovery- as well as a supernaturally tyrannical Blondie from whom he must reclaim the key to his past and evidently his future. What makes this movie so special is that it is shot almost entirely in first person- from the perspective of Henry.
Besides the brow-furling, cut-throat fighting sequences and nearly perfect seamless editing, what makes this feature stand out is it's accomplishment of a beginning, middle, and end of the story. It's plot, though a little bewildering at first, becomes clear and believable- but by the middle of the movie, the engaging story line plays second fiddle to the gruesome yet graceful explosive fits of unrelenting violence. Additionally, the special effects are awfully well done as well! It's fast paced, thoughtful without being aggressive in it's tone and themes, and can easily be enjoyed by any group of movie viewing adults.
So why can't I give this film 5 stars? I can deal with the resolution and definition of the film itself, which is High Definition and in your basic 24 fps, but there are some critical parts of the film that are just too distorted and unclear due to the constant listing and shaking of the camera due the quick and jolting movements of the character when there's action going on. It's simply cosmetic, but it's also distracting.
I can also deal with a charming quality of acting, but there are some vital moments where the acting just fell through. It neither took away nor enhanced the film and experience- it was just lip curling.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this genre of handheld Go-Pro shooting in film-making will start becoming more rampant, but we'll always know who really took it to the next level of hardcore.