Monday, 25 July 2016

Hardcore Henry (US/RUS, 2016)

Wow so this is kinda unique isn't it! An action movie with a twist, that twist being some actual originality!! Well colour me surprised. So this action flick was basically filmed in a first-person perspective (FPS) which as I'm sure many of you out there will know, is a widely used term in the videogaming world.  This essentially means we the viewers are watching all the action from the protagonists perspective, virtually through his eyes, making everything feel much more realistic. I do believe this is the first movie to ever do this for its entire runtime, hence its uniqueness. Unfortunately it also means the movie simply cannot escape being compared to a simple videogame and little more. I really do hate it when I have to compare a sequence in a movie, or some effects, to a videogame because it just comes across as cliche. Well imagine my horror when faced with the scenario of comparing an entire movie to a simple videogame!

Aaand this is the problem...its just like watching a bloody videogame!! Aarrgghh!! You just can't not say it! Whilst I completely appreciate the fresh approach and originality on display here, which is indeed a big deal these days, I just can't get around the fact this movie basically feels like a collection of videogame, in-game sequences cobbled together to make a full length movie. Its almost as if they're just gotten a hold of some popular FPS game, taken out all the cut scenes, stuck them together and voila! here's your movie. You could literally do that with any major videogame right Halo. I've haven't felt so divided for some time, I like what they have done, I like the daring approach, it does feel new...but at the same time it doesn't, heck it could come across like cheating to a degree, like its not a proper movie.

Everything about this movie screams a videogame, nothing vastly different from any other silly action fest of course but this movie is in FPS. Lets look at the plot briefly, some dude (Henry) wakes up after an accident in a not too distant future. He has been badly injured and has had his arm and leg replaced with cybernetic limbs which will obviously give him greater strength and skills. All of a sudden the facility is attacked by a powerful albino chap with telekinetic powers and a bunch of tooled up henchmen. Henry is forced to rescue the scientist working on him (his wife) and escape, alas he is not yet on the ball with his special abilities so he does this in a clumsy fashion. Long story short, Henry loses his wife to the bad guy and must utilise the help of a cloned man to help him locate a source to re-energise his cybernetic limbs, then find his wife. To say the plot is weak and formulaic would be an understatement, to say the plot is cliched, unoriginal, predictable and errmm...videogame-esque, would also be another huge understatement.

I mean come on, the movie plays literally level by level, one set piece to another with very little in between. Henry makes his way to a location, meets up with one cloned version of the mysterious Jimmy, Jimmy helps Henry a bit, then gets killed off, Henry fights a load of goons, wins, moves on to next location for next fight (a rails shooter type scenario). Every now and then Henry even gets a small boss character to battle such as a goon with a flamethrower, or a tank. Sometimes Henry comes across a stash of weapons to power-up or gain ammo or health even. At one point Henry even acquires a pair of female dominatrix sidekicks that are able to kickass with their own unique weapons and abilities. Not really sure where they popped up from or why they even help Henry but there you go. Along every step of the way Henry meets up with a new clone of Jimmy in a new guise, be it a pothead, a punk, a British soldier from WWII, a sniper etc...Almost every time the clone version of Jimmy is able to help Henry in that particular situation, think of Jimmy like the Cortana of the movie if you will, the game guide.

Everything trundles along merrily until Henry reaches the climatic end game battle against the main baddie, and some 'Matrix' rip-off sequence where he must fight a horde of clones...but in a less shitty CGI fashion. Speaking of the main bad guy, he totally looks like a videogame character, very much like the lead character from Devil May Cry actually. No idea why he's a super powered telekinetic, unless I missed something? no clue, just the way it is in this future I guess. As for his motivation, well lets just say it involves that age old plot device of cyborg super soldiers and taking over the world, nuff said.

Anywho the action in this flick is satisfying for sure, this ain't no kiddie flick folks, plenty of blood spurting all over the show with limbs flying, necks snapping and bullet holes aplenty. But funnily enough its not the violence that hooked me as we've seen this many times before, its the FPS angle that grabbed me. The simple reason being, and this is just me here, watching this film made me wanna go play FPS videogames, I actually wanted to switch off and go play a game. In fact, the more violent and intense the film became, the more it made me wanna play a game and do the same thing...but with me in control. Now is that a compliment for the movie? well kinda, I guess, but you could also say its not because it made me wanna switch off. Overall I'm saying the FPS angle did engage me for the most part which is positive, but it doesn't last. The jarring visual feast laid out before you does indeed become very jarring at times, almost unwatchable as our protagonist leaps about (if you get motion sickness this might not be for you). And if you probably haven't guessed already (which you no doubt have), the movie does become more and more videogame-esque as you head towards the finale, the sense you are heading towards the big boss fight. As I was watching the final battle I got the feeling I should of been hammering a pad button furiously, button mashing the fuck outta the end of level villain.

So when it all boils down to it, the FPS angle does engage you but it also grows tiresome when you actually wanna see what's happening in frantic sequences. Ingenious as it was to shoot the movie with these little GoPro, head-mounted cams, the obvious issues with rapid head movement in fast paced action sequences makes it hard to watch at various points, although admittedly a bit more thrilling at others. I liked how we didn't really find too much out about Henry, the fact we don't see him apart from a brief glimpse at the end (almost like other famous FPS game characters like Master Chief or Doomguy), although its a shame that all the other characters are completely throwaway. There is an eye rolling plot twist in the end involving the so called super soldiers (they aren't too super in the film) and the villains, I didn't see it but I should have, its all very cliched. So bottom line, it feels like the action genre is being reinvented before your very eyes...but really it isn't. The movie feels like a bit of a gimmick, a bit of a guilty pleasure that does work...for a while.