Posts Tagged ‘Ilya Naishuller’

Poster

Hardcore Henry is a stupid name for a movie. We can all agree on that.

A movie that solely features a first-person perspective seems like a stupid idea.

However, Hardcore Henry is not a stupid movie. Although this is absolutely not a highbrow movie, it is quite an achievement in filmmaking for crazy rooskie Ilya Naishuller. I hope that’s not taken as an insult in the Motherland because it’s meant as a term of endearment for this outrageous Russian who made this fucking movie his debut film. I have no idea where Naishuller goes from here.

Sadly, we may never even get an opportunity to see Naishuller’s future work if this flops.

Hardcore Henry deserves better. This movie would have benefitted tremendously with a late release at the very end of summer—hitting people at the tail-end of action movie season with something they have never witnessed. Or perhaps scheduling the movie for a February release (such as Deadpool) would have been a boon to the box office. Anything was a better idea than competing directly against tentpole movies. Keeping the original title of Hardcore should have also been an easy decision. Hardcore Henry’s marketing campaign did not do the movie justice. This is more than a “video game movie.”

For whatever reason, Hardcore Henry has not hit the mark with critics or the audience.

Yes, the first-person perspective is a gimmick. But it is very well-executed throughout the movie.

Action

No one has had the balls to pull off a full-length feature film shot with a GoPro. I have no idea how some of these sequences were pulled off, but the practical effects are seamlessly blended with CGI to make this relatively smooth camerawork. If you are at all predisposed to motion sickness, sit in the back row. As a child, I learned the hard way because the 5-year-old version of myself was dragged to Aladdin and forced to sit in the front row. Needless to say, that magic carpet ride was not so magical. I wanted to throw up and we had to leave the movie. Maybe it’s a coincidence that I hate all Disney movies. But as long as you know what to expect with Hardcore Henry, you should be fine for the hour and a half runtime. While it can get too shaky at moments, I never experienced motion sickness. Naishuller gives the audience just enough breaks at the right times to serve as respite from all the murdering.

Hardcore Henry has a frenetic pace and the kinetic action drives the movie.

With a slow build, there is a nice crescendo leading up to all the ensuing chaos.

Estelle

The beginning is a beautiful introduction to the premise and plot. As the audience, you see everything from the first-person perspective of Henry. Just as Henry does, you wake up to find yourself being attended to by a sexy doctor named Estelle (played by Haley Bennett). Not so sexy is that you’re missing an arm and a leg. But good news, the doctor is apparently your wife and she can hook you up with cybernetic limbs. Essentially, these limbs are indestructible plug-and-play parts.

The party is almost immediately broken up by a mysterious villain named Akan (played by Danila Kozlovsky) who has fine-tuned telekinetic powers and bad intentions. Akan and his never-ending army of soldiers seize Estelle and Henry’s mission is to get his wife back. If there’s a weak part of this movie, the character of Akan leaves a lot to be desired. A more iconic villain and matching performance would have really elevated Hardcore Henry. Instead, what we got was a weird albino Joker-lite.

Akan

The story isn’t remarkable, but it still manages to be an entertaining sci-fi movie set somewhere in a more technologically advanced world. If this was filmed in the typical straightforward fashion, I would still be interested in watching the story unfold. In a sense, Hardcore Henry self-imposes limitations on the story by forcing themselves to film everything in the first-person perspective.

It’s hard to fathom how this got made, but I am glad it did.

Sharlto Copley comes out of Hardcore Henry as the shining star (Jimmy). Copley is not the titular Henry, but he plays several different versions of the same character who helps Henry on his mission. Most of the comic relief in Hardcore Henry is a direct result of Copley’s completely over-the-top performance. Sharlto puts his range on display, and he already proved very capable of performing with just his voice in Chappie. By luck or design, Copley appears to enjoy being part of interesting movies.

Jimmy

Hardcore Henry is mostly a nonstop thriller. When Naishuller needs to give the audience a rest from close-ups of hyperviolence, he still manages to make the events interesting. Considering Hardcore Henry was primarily shot using GoPro mounted cameras, that feat is a worthwhile accomplishment. However, there are few occasions where Naishuller falls a little too much in love with the GoPro.

I whole-heartedly loved the first and third acts of this movie. But Hardcore Henry threatens to stall out in the second act because there’s too much repetition of similar sequences. Henry is in a bind against Akan’s soldiers and he has to fight his way out so he can find his wife. There reaches a point where they almost make you numb to the gory violence. I promise you that Ilya Naishuller will win your heart over with the finale if you stick it through. Near the end, they recognize the absurdity of the story and Naishuller just turns up the volume level to dangerous head-splitting territory.

While this movie absolutely isn’t for everyone, I would be surprised to hear people (who went into this movie expecting to experience mindless action) were not entertained. There are so many thrilling sequences that leave your jaw agape. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Violence

I guarantee you have never seen anything like this movie. Since we’re all drowning in a sea of mediocrity, you should do yourself a favor and bear witness to a cinematic achievement that cannot be replicated. I don’t think anyone will have the balls to try to pull this off again. Even if someone makes an attempt, Ilya Naishuller already set the bar extremly high with the execution of Hardcore Henry.

Eventually, I expect this movie to find a cult audience that will appreciate and celebrate its existence. Hardcore Henry deserves that adoration because it threatens to be different. If you noticed, I haven’t even mentioned who plays Henry. A series of stuntmen and cameramen served the role—including director Ilya Naishuller, which shows some real investment. The whole crew responsible for this movie probably won’t get the respect they deserve, but they can take solace in the creativity of their labor.  Their work will likely scare off anyone else from attempting a full first-person movie.

Despite the commercial disappointment, Hardcore Henry is actually an incredibly pleasant surprise.

A-OK

4 out of 5 stars

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