By Blake Nelson
“Hardcore Henry” has been heralded as a groundbreaking film featuring first-person camera techniques and similar action to that of a video game. Yet, what the film presents amounts to nothing more than watching someone else play a video game for an hour and a half — in more ways than one, I assure you.
The buzz for “Hardcore Henry” was largely based around a music video by the band Biting Elbows, made by the same filmmakers as “Hardcore Henry,” and featured a similar filming style. That’s fine and all, but a feature-length film in that style would be a stretch, right? Well, not according to the filmmakers.
“Hardcore Henry” suffers from what so many other films of this century suffer from: style over substance. Beyond the quick action camera and the multitude of fighting sequences is a story that beat for beat plays like a video game. No imagination was put into the climax or the plot points that lead to it. The twist itself was so telegraphed that anyone who wasn’t “just along for the ride” could tell what was going to happen.
This film has also been compared to video games such as “Doom” and “Call of Duty,” which is an apt description due to the type of stories and characters present. But the thing “Hardcore Henry” lacks the most is the playability aspect of a video game. The film, even though not based on a game explicitly, seems to also suffer what movies based on games suffer as well: one would rather play the game itself.
Other aspects of the film that would snugly fit into a video game are the special effects and toilet humor used throughout. One scene in particular is so laden with poorly done special effects that I swear they stole the effects from “Doom 64.” Other scenes are so unfunny that the viewer might just cringe.
That all being said, the movie is a fun watch for the first 45 minutes and some of the shots are interesting, but by the third running sequence, the fun becomes tedious. The film, only having a 90-minute run time, feels a little long-winded for what it invariably is — a really long video game cutscene.
Whatever the film was going for, whether it be exhilaration, style or humor, it ultimately does none, leaving the viewer feeling like they just watched a blender for an hour and a half. If the film intends to be a forerunner for first-person action films, then it is setting a poor template for what is to come. The film does nothing other than showcase a technique that lends itself to being a gimmick, rather than something that could possibly make a compelling film. I personally would not want to sit through another first-person video game film even if Kubrick himself came back from the dead and directed.
Blake Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.