I see what you were doing there, Hardcore Henry. First Person Shooter as a movie genre is fairly original, I have to say. And as a proof of concept, it works, it really does: the FPS plot can be adapted to a movie. Well done. But it didn’t really work for me, possibly because I’m really, really old. But possibly also because watching this movie is exactly like watching someone else play through an entire video game flawlessly but, despite the hundreds of hours of gameplay he must have devoted to being able to do this (without dying once), inexplicably refuses to skip the cutscenes. I spent the entire movie unable to shake the feeling that I was waiting for my turn to play.
A first-person action film from the eyes of Henry, who’s resurrected from death with no memory. He must discover his identity and save his wife from a warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.
Don’t get me wrong, this was an entertaining movie. It is the fastest paced movie I have ever seen; faster than Minions, faster than Run Lola Run. It just didn’t let up. The acting was fantastic. The sets likewise were fantastic. The dialogue, while not fantastic, was still perfectly on point with the videogames that it so obviously refers to. And the violence was amazing. There are just so many ways of killing people and blowing stuff up. I’ve never really subscribed to the idea of videogames desensitizing people to violence, but I actually felt myself desensitize while watching this film.
The camera bugged me. I’m not a fan of hand-held cam movies at the best of times and this was definitely worse. Not only did have all the jiggly annoyance of hand-held shots, but I couldn’t see the protagonist with whom I was supposed to identify. I couldn’t see what he intended to do or what his plan was. All I got to do was watch his hands act and react. This worked well in some cases. Something caught the camera’s eye and he had to look at it, and by the time he looked back something else was coming at him. But there was no suspense, no dramatic tension, no empathy. There was just action; endless nonstop action.
I liked this view of Russia, the movie’s setting. It felt genuine, like it was set in real places. There were some wonderful set pieces. The pacing, while frantic was also not unreasonable. It followed all the movie conventions of where the twists go. It established goals for the characters and conflict. Every time I started to get tired of watching First Person parkour and people getting shot in the head, Hardcore Henry would slow the pace down for a few minutes. There were some good character hooks too. You learn about the character’s world as he does, and the weird little mysteries slowly congeal and make sense in a satisfying way.
So is this a movie worth watching? Honestly I don’t know, probably not. I’m not going to see it again, though I’ll definitely buy the video game if it comes out. But I’m the wrong person to review it, I need things to be clever and emotionally satisfying. Hardcore Henry was exciting as all hell but I don’t feel videogame logic works as well on the movie screen. I really do like how original it was, I believe more films should take this kind of risk. Maybe just rent it and watch in fast forward, it should work just as well.