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New Release Review - HARDCORE HENRY

First person perspective action extravaganza.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Ilya Naishuller

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth, Haley Bennett, Danila Kozlovsky



This testosterone-fuelled, sadistic and misogynistic horror show is an endurance test all but the most ardent supporters of GamerGate will fail. Its effects are certainly breath-taking, but rather than asking "How did they do that?", we find ourselves asking "Why did they do that?"



Filming from a first person perspective is nothing new. Ignoring the countless found footage movies that essentially present us with the point of view of whatever character happens to be operating the camera, you can go back to Abel Gance's 1927 epic Napoleon for subjective camera sequences, but a pair of 1947 films noir - Robert Montgomery's Lady in the Lake and Delmer Daves' Humphrey Bogart vehicle Dark Passage - pushed the limits of the form, and in the case of the former, the audience's patience. A multitude of films since have opened with a sequence seen through the eyes of its protagonist or antagonist, from Delbert Mann's amnesia drama Mister Buddwing to horror movies like Dario Argento's Deep Red and John Carpenter's Halloween.

The technique works best in those horror examples, where the viewer is placed inside the mask of a killer as we watch them creep up on unsuspecting victims, causing us to shout out "look behind you" while feeling complicit in the killing about to occur. In order to create suspense, the audience needs to be presented with more information than the film's hero/protagonist. If we share their point of view, we're robbed of those "look behind you!" moments.

This is the major stumbling block of the majority of found footage horrors, and it's a problem shared by Hardcore Henry, the first large scale action flick shot entirely through subjective point of view, thanks to GoPro cameras mounted on cameramen/stuntmen's heads. We never have any more information than the titular 'hero', so rather than being engaged in the narrative, we become mere onlookers, and it's not a pretty sight.

Anyone sick of found footage movies will be all too aware of how tedious it is to sit through an entire movie shot in this manner, and when you apply it to the action genre, it becomes not just tiresome, but headache inducing. Hardcore Henry is directed by first time Russian filmmaker Ilya Naishuller, but it may as well be directed by a can of Monster energy drink. Watching Naishuller's film is the cinematic equivalent of attempting to rope a mad bull; the film keeps charging towards us, but we can never get to grips with it.

The basic plot involves Henry waking up in a strange lab where scientist Estelle (Haley Bennett, one of 372 pneumatic blondes to appear in the film, and the only one who isn't either a stripper or a whore) gives him a set of robot limbs before a telekinetic albino named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), who at first I thought was The Room director Tommy Wiseau in disguise, wreaks havoc. Henry finds himself on the run in Moscow, aided by Sharlto Copley playing a series of cockney-accented, homophobic clones. In a scene that will make or break Hardcore Henry for viewers, Copley sings Sinatra's 'I've Got You Under My Skin' in the guise of various clones; it broke me.

Hardcore Henry is essentially an effects showreel stretched out to feature length. Taken out of context, any three minute sequence from the film would undoubtedly impress in its own right, but having to watch them strung together over the course of this testosterone-fuelled, sadistic and misogynistic horror show is an endurance test all but the most ardent supporters of GamerGate will fail. Its effects are certainly breath-taking, but rather than asking "How did they do that?", we find ourselves asking "Why did they do that?"
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