For a two minute trailer, this idea works – snap shots of chaotic chase sequences, exciting shoot-outs, dizzying jumps and free falls and quirky characters all presented via a unique 1st person view. It looked a crazy idea, but something that resonated through every 1st person gamer fan who saw it.
Sadly, for 90mins of what turns out to be the same thing over and over, the novelty quickly wears off and becomes a headache inducing and pretty empty love-letter to present video game shooters.
We, the audience, are playing Henry. We don’t see his face (bar for a few seconds) and can assume his identity to be anyone. Played by over 10 people during the production, but mostly stuntmen Sergey Valyaev and Andrei Dementiev, you see only the hands, chest and feet of our hero as he freefalls, does parkour, shoot a sniper rifle, ride a bike…all the check lists you want in a film entitled “Hardcore”. Without the sex.
Henry sadly doesn’t speak, and so you literally just get fed from one sequence to the next with a few jump-cuts brought about by the “glitchy programme” running inside Henry’s head; he IS a cyborg don’t forget, so it’s not one long, well manipulated take. The other characters narrate and speak for you. You don’t connect with him or really feel for him, so you don’t really care too much about him because he just like a faceless video game character who you use to serve a purpose and then easily turn off once finished.
Sharlto Copley, in a surreal number of roles here which starts to actually make sense towards the end if you stay with it, is our quirky “narrator” and comic relief who takes us from each “level” to the next and gives us our mission. With support from a smouldering and under-used Hayley Bennett and a strange albino-esque mercenary with the ability to use the Force in the guise of Danila Kozlovsky… and a strange shoehorned cameo from Tim Roth… these characters pop up now and then amidst the hordes of gun-toting goons who crop up along the way. They are good, but because there is little interaction with them and they speak for us, it’s hard to connect.
The action is hardcore so the title lives up to expectations. Grizzly stabs and slashes, blood and guts, all the stuff you can imagination happens here in glorious 1st person view to live out your sick enjoyment of video games like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ or ‘Doom’. It’s great fun admittedly, and during exciting chase sequences it’s a decent thrill ride.
However when the action cranks up a gear and Henry is thrown around, falling from buildings, rocked by explosions, chasing baddies across streets…it gets a little busy on the old eyes. Shaky-cam to the EXTREME here, so if you’re not a fan of that, give this a miss because a majority of the “hardcore” of the title requires relentless GoPro camera action strapped to the performers head as he runs, falls, fights and jumps.
It’s a daft story, and a daft idea on the whole. It works for about 10minutes but obviously the meat of the film is lost in lieu of the sole idea of the mute super-soldier who speaks with violence and little more. It’s not got weight to re-visit, and bar a couple of well-staged sequences, which you have to give credit for, the imagination and staging IS stand-out here and well executed, there’s nothing new on offer and it’s a very empty and slightly disappointing film when you probably expected so much more.