So the first-of-its-kind first-person action film Hardcore Henry came out this weekend. When I saw, from the trailers, that the movie was going to be from the first-person point of view, I was very excited to see what that would be like in a feature film. But before determining its historical value, the question remains: was it good?
Hardcore Henry is a story about a man named Henry who is part man and part machine who can’t remember his life before this. He wakes up and immediately has to avoid capture by a mysterious man named Akan who takes his wife. With some help from a man named Jimmy, Henry has to attempt to save his wife from Akan and figure out who he is.
Now, I wasn’t expecting Shakespearean writing from this film, but I was hoping it would be better than a bad video game script. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This movie is cluttered with characters that have zero personality whatsoever. Henry, of course, has no personality, as he cannot speak or remember anything about who he is. I believe this was an attempt to make the viewer feel like they can put themselves into the role of Henry and be really immersed. The problem with that, though, is that it can only really work in a video game where the person is allowed to make their own decisions. That’s why video games are able to have cookie-cutter characters, their personality comes from the player. In a movie, the viewer has to be able to identify with someone in order to empathize with them and understand their struggles and goals. Since I didn’t care about any of the characters, I also didn’t care about the story. The film seems to think that in order to fix this fatal lack of character development, all it has to do is jar and confuse the audience just like how Henry is. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Having no idea of the kind of consequences or stakes involved in the story does not make me interested, it makes me want to go to sleep and turn off the movie.
Going into the acting… It’s okay, nothing spectacular. No one was able to shine at all in this film except maybe Sharlto Copley as Jimmy, but even then it’s not like he surprises you with how well he can play this kind of character. Every actor does their job exactly how you think they would. It’s a simple action movie with simple action movie acting.
But, how were the visuals in this film? What is a first-person action film like? Well, it’s not all that fun. A lot of the action is filmed in a shaky cam fashion, so you only rarely see something really gory or fun. I can only assume that this is simply a limitation of the medium. What isn’t, though, is bad special effects, and this movie has a lot of those. In fact, some of the special effects were so atrocious I couldn’t believe a movie like this actually got a wide-release. For example, there’s this one big explosion in a room full of people near the end of the film, and it looked so fake I think the effects people just didn’t finish it in time. Still, there were some fun visuals. The gratuitous violence that you actually can see at some points was really fun to watch. It reminded me of something from the 1980s, very bloody and downright ridiculous. There's also a lot of great music in the movie, and when it got ramped up I did have a smile on my face.
So, overall I wouldn’t say the movie will be some great revolutionary turning point in cinema, but it was something new. Even so, as original as it seems to be, it’s not really groundbreaking. It shares a lot of traits with found footage movies: shaky camera, weak characterization, simple premise, and as a lover of film it really left no impression on me at all. I say Snub It, play an FPS game instead, at least then you get to participate in the action rather than just passively watch it happen.