Saturday, December 3, 2016

I just watched a video game called 'Hardcore Henry'

I honestly knew exactly what I was getting into with this one, having seen the trailers several times and being warned by multiple people that the trailers really didn't lie (and honestly, how could they?) but I braved the storm anyway and walk away feeling about as indifferent as I always imagined.

For those who don't know, this film is shot entirely from a first person perspective, with what looked like fish-eye lenses and a whole ton of shaking and running around. This was meant to enhance the experience and make you feel like you were watching a video game; an idea which at its very core is counter-intuitive. Who wants to watch someone else play a first person shooter game, let alone watch what is essentially a one being played by someone who isn't even in the room? The gimmick is technically handled fairly well, but it's a nauseating experience due to not being able to anticipate the movements that normally would have been countered by controlling the camera movements with your thumb.

As for a narrative, this story really does play out like a video game. You can tell the filmmakers love gaming, and that translates onto the screen here in a multitude of ways. The plot instantly jumps into the action, moving from set piece to set piece without pause, slowly developing characters, motivation, and background before ultimately coming to a final evelation leading into a sort of boss battle. It's all very cliche and would make for an entertaining video game, but as a film to sit back and watch without being able to fully engage yourself in the setting and go at your own pace, it becomes surprisingly dull.

I enjoy the cinematography for how frenetic and relentless it is, seamlessly carrying the viewer from set piece to set piece. The warped perspective makes for a trippy presentation of what would have otherwise been fairly standard to look at (all things considered), and it's impossible to watch this movie without appreciating the hell out of the amazing stuntwork and choreography required, particularly by the actors portraying Henry. But it's the kind of action movie I can appreciate and admire more than actually enjoy.

Apart from the overall "video games aren't as fun to watch being played as they are to play" criticisms I have, what I would have to consider my main issue with this movie comes from how obnoxiously over-the-top and miscast Sharlto Copley is. Copley is usually a shining light in mediocre action movies (District 9, The A-Team, and Elysium to name a few), but here he's so endlessly manic and "quirky" he quickly becomes obnoxious. Not to mention his multitude of "unique and interesting" roles he portrays as his characters takes on disguises throughout the film. It wasn't amusing, he was a bad casting choice, and the results were pretty painful. The main villain was equally as hammy, but somehow I was more okay with that: probably because he didn't change his wig and voice every 5 minutes.

Expectedly one-dimensional characters, video game pacing, crazy cinematography, and hammy acting galore. This is not a movie you recommend to people without first fully explaining what it is and what they can expect. I didn't personally get much out of it, but I can see this building up a massive cult following among fans of first person shooters and nonstop action in their movies.
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