Hardcore Henry: Short Review: First-Person Shenanigans

     I have a feeling Hardcore Henry will be a very divisive film.  It's a disorienting stream of motion and violence.  It's fast, absurd, and downright brutal at times...
     ...but it's also an extremely entertaining and fun to watch if you've ever been an FPS (First-Person Shooter) gamer.  It's an exhilarating experimental film tailored exactly to your gameplay familiarity.  Maybe it is something not necessarily made for specifically for gamers, but it is definitely something clearly made with very heavy influences from FPS gaming culture.

     POV filming is still a relatively untapped field for movies, and here we see the blurring lines between video game culture and movies for a unique and immersive cinematic experience.  I think VR might be the next step from here in putting viewers directly into the role of player, but that could be a ways off yet.  There's great effort in setting this up to be viewed in the way gamers play and look at things.  Even more care is given to the way the film is edited.  Each scene is handled with enough finesse that many cuts are surgically precise and go unnoticed.

     The film plays on many conventions of modern games and translates it into an insane adrenaline-fueled joy ride.  Henry himself doesn't speak, he has little care for any bystanders, makes inventive use of weapons, and there's even a wonderful moment in the "end boss" fight where he uses the boss's own power as a type of game mechanic.  Although, we can see that Writer/Director Ilya Naishuller put in a good amount of time to make absolutely certain that those conventions of gaming didn't devolve into mere tropes though.  There's no health or experience bars to be seen and that is a very good thing.

     Going with nearly no big name actors, with the exception being Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame- who steals every single scene he's in- was a grand idea.  We aren't being force fed things.  As viewers we are in the driver's seat learning and watching as the main character does through the stages of the film.  Each step of the journey we get a little more plot and a lot more action.  It builds and builds and builds until the end of the film when it goes off the rails into a pure fighting fervor.

     Back to Sharlto Copley.  He's a glowing gem of brilliance as the many faces of Jimmy.  It sounds odd, but he has all the best moments, and all the funniest death scenes.  His whole character also serves as a larger underlying meta-commentary as his avatars are all quite expendable and appear all over the place filling us in with loads of exposition that comprises much of the story.

     Hardcore Henry is quite brilliant in it's execution for the big screen and will likely have a cult following because of it.  In the end Hardcore Henry is one hell of an interesting thrill ride unmistakably influenced by video game culture, and done in such an ingeniously creative way that it may be hard to top for any of the inevitable future movies shot in this style.

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