A film shot almost entirely on GoPro? Sign me up!!
The first thing that stuck out to me about this film was, of course, the “play-style”. If it’s unclear from just looking at the trailers, yes, the movie does play out like a first-person shooter—from the plot, to the way the narrative pans out, to the action sequences, and even the final “boss battle” (choreographed to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’). This would have been epic to see on the big screen…which makes me sad that I missed it when it came to my theatre.
This movie happens in “real time”, which is something that we don’t see very often. It’s ambitious. I mean, there are clear transitions between scenes, but it all takes place in the course of a single day. The film’s got that concise, bare-bones feeling—no need to bog the audience down with extra story or other excess when you’re the filmmaker and you’re riding the ground-breaking GoPro train. Filled to overflowing with satirical humor, references to other movies, and, of course, rollercoaster action that isn’t as dizzying as you’d think, Hardcore Henry is a fun and refreshing take on the action genre—although, you’ll want to stay away from this one if you struggle with vertigo, motion sickness, epileptic seizures, et cetera.
Director Ilya Naishuller had a vision and followed through with it, and had the technical expertise to back up his first big-screen baby. Someone trained to spot such things can pick up on where there’s been an invisible cut (a transition from shot to shot without using an obvious cut), but it does flow on-screen, regardless of your visual training. There were some neat split-screen moments—you’ll see what I mean when you watch, if you haven’t already—and all this put together really places you in Henry’s shoes. Throughout the film, you are this bad-ass, speechless, “supersonic man” named Henry, seeing all through his eyes…and loving it.
The soundtrack, as well, was pretty sweet. Taking place in some nameless city in Russia (but filmed entirely on-location in Moscow), there was a lot of Russian grunge rock and alternative thrown in, which just entrapped me more in the setting, alongside The Temptations, Sublime, Queen—as stated earlier—and Naishuller’s own band, Biting Elbows.
Sharlto Copley played the role of name-taking side-kick, Jimmy—an instant classic: Call of Duty’s Captain Price to Henry’s mute MacTavish…if Price didn’t take his job so seriously. I was really rooting for the pair of them throughout this film, as they carved path after bloody, limb-strewn path towards the “final showdown”.
When all’s said and done, Hardcore Henry is your typical damsel in distress/revenge story—however…I don’t mean that in a demeaning way. This was a very entertaining movie to watch, both for its innovation in filmmaking and direction, as well as its expertly-choreographed action sequences.
Hardcore Henry gets a final ‘Risk Assessment of ****/* from me. I’m hopeful for a sequel (stay for the whole credits!!), and Ilya Naishuller’s next ground-breaking feat in filmmaking. He’s got a good career ahead of him.