Cert: 18 / 96 mins / Dir. Ilya Naishuller / Trailer
And the award for Clearly Having The Most Fun on a Film Set goes to... Mr Sharlto Copley. Yes, although we see the events of Hardcore Henry through the eponymous protagonist's first-person vision, the most frequently recurring character (whose face we see) is that of Copley's Jimmy, the companion, guide and co-player to Henry's super-soldier cyborg-self. Without wanting to delve to deeply into why, Copley gets a succession of costumes and mannerisms to play with*1 whilst delivering the lion's share of the exposition. Not that there's a massive deal to exposit...
Taking the First Person Shooter format as its starting point and doing very little to move much further, Hardcore Henry is a film presented entirely from Henry's point-of-view. It also utilises standard game mechanics such as the player initially orienting themselves in a lab through a brief introductory scene, the companion/guide as above, a series of escalating missions and weaponry and of course The End Boss, Akan (all scenery thoroughly chewed courtesy of Danila Kozlovsky). Sprinkle in Haley Bennett's love-interest/macguffin, Estelle and a smattering of flashbacks featuring Tim Roth as Henry's father, and there's your film. Just add pyrotechnics and blood to fill the gaps.
Now although it certainly won't be to everyone's tastes (and nor should it be), it's a bold experiment and one which can be classed as successful. Although crucially, Hardcore Henry is a great film of a game that wouldn't be particularly good. The best film-adaptations certainly appear to be ones of games that don't actually exist; HH bolsters that theory. But frankly it's the sort of game you'd have powered through in a single afternoon in the mid 1990s, then not thought about again.
The storyline itself is a little patchy (go to the dot on the map; shoot people; rinse/repeat), as is the Eclectic™ soundtrack. And there are a few jump-cuts (particularly in the chase-sequences) which make things more disorienting than they really should be. If you're seeing this in the cinema you'll want to sit middle-to-back, as motion-sickness could well be a problem the closer to the screen you are.
Outside of the storytelling technique itself, the film is mostly immense fun, although it occasionally cruises over the line of good-taste unnecessarily. Then again, it does a lot of things unnecessarily. Gleefully violent and at times horrendously misogynistic, the film embraces the best and worst excesses of the industry which inspired it. It's not that Hardcore Henry is trying to offend you, but it really doesn't give a fuck if it does, either.
If you've ever enjoyed an FPS game, you should have some fun with Hardcore Henry. If you haven't, you probably won't; it's that simple.
Edge of Tomorrow, Crank.
A big screen will heighten the adrenaline, but it'll also heighten the shaky-cam.
Not always, but mostly.
As Naishuller's first full feature, it's an impressive start, but he'll have to move onwards and upwards from here.
And it's glorious.
Level 2: Hardcore Henry stars Sharlto Copely, who was in The A-Team alongside Liam 'Qui-Gonn' Neeson.
*1 Although not really 'accents', as each of his personas adopts a London-based tone. Sharlto's normally on shaky ground with any accent other than his native South African and Hardcore Henry is no exception. But, he's having such a blast with the role than even I didn't mind his occasional slip-ups. And that says a lot (as regular readers can well imagine).
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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