Hardcore Henry rules. I remember hearing about this movie when it was in cinemas, I desperately wanted to go. Unfortunately, it was only showing at one cinema, 50 miles away, with a single showing at 3:15 each day. I wasn’t prepared to book a day off work to see it, I have much better things to do with my days off, like getting a hair cut or doing the big shop.
Anyway, when I finally got hold of it on Blu Ray, I slammed it in my Play Station 4, and my goodness I was not disappointed. Initial worries of travel sickness from the unique camera work quickly faded away in a haze of blood and brain plasma. I then proceeded to buy several copies of this and hand them out as Christmas gifts to whoever was daft enough to befriend me. People need to see this film, and I hope this encourages you to take a look too. There are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes, that is at least one way to look at it.
So, why am I saying this is the best video game movie, despite it not being based on a game? Well…
The first and most obvious reason why Hardcore Henry can be classed as a video game movie is the unique way it is filmed. Entirely from a first-person perspective, you see everything that Henry, our protagonist sees. This is amazing as I’m sure I’m not the only person who watched the first-person sequence from 2005’s Doom and said “wow, I wish this whole movie could be like that”. Guess what? This is just like that, but better, and with parkour, and more blood.
If, like me you were worried about getting motion sickness, don’t. This film keeps the action frantic and fun, but close quarters encounters never take up too much time, allowing for wider, more easily followed shots to take up the run-time. This gives your brain and inner ear less of a beating, whilst still leaving you in a daze, it won’t leave you reaching for a bucket.
So, not only does it make you feel like you’re watching a video game as a video game fan, it is also a totally unique way to film a full-length feature. That keeps both the nerds and movie snobs all happy. The important thing is, being “gamey” does not detract from the film side of it, and that is what a lot of video game adaptions get wrong.
The film features a level structure, with each act having a very deliberate objective which is briefed into Henry through a walking or soft-parkour section. Usually, this is delivered through expository dialogue from a companion character, as Henry is unable to speak. There are much like the forced walking segments of today’s blockbuster games.
The tropes don’t stop here though, and I don’t use that word negatively. It is awesome to see usual game clichés explored through a different medium. There are escort sections, vehicle sections, turret sections, sniper sections, everything used in video games to help vary up the experience. There are also tanks, horses and flamethrowers. This is only 90 minutes long. All of this, in less than the time it takes to make a Sunday roast, a good one anyway. Needless to say, the pacing is brisk.
It is hella violent
An additional reason that this is a video game movie, is the violence. The gratuitous, over the top, sometimes literally ball busting violence. With a death toll of roughly 211, averaged out across the run time to just over two deaths a minute. This is as much of a power fantasy as any Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. This sense of fun is one which is also found in games such as Super Hot, one of the many games referenced in an apartment scene, presumably to pay homage to the medium.
Tutorial & learning
Hardcore Henry begins in a typical tutorial fashion. You know, “look left, look up, calibrate sensors”, all that cliché stuff. This, much like the tutorial sections of most games is the most boring part, if you have previously watched this film, feel free to skip right through, if you haven’t, it is important for context.
As Henry progresses through the film, his combat abilities progress also. In the opening fight scene, he gets his arse handed to him, kicked off a bridge and run over. However, later on he is taking on countless foes, upgrading his organs, and becoming more deadly with every level. I mean scene…
Finally, there are a few scenes throughout the film where the perspective shifts to split the screen in half, one side for each of Henry’s eyes. Each time this happens, the viewer needs to learn and understand these to get the full payoff of the final kill. Understanding the final sequence, which involves cutting the antagonists head off using that thing that holds your eyes in your skull is gross and badass. Unless you take note of these scenes, and learn how they work mechanically, you will have no idea what is happening really. This doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it but figuring this out is a treat in itself, especially when you finally see it all in action.
Oh yeah, this
Go and watch this film right now, please, it is on Netflix, which I know you have, or at least have access to an ex’s account. They won’t mind. This film needs more love, it deserves it. Whether you are into gaming or not, there is something to love in this, a sequel doesn’t look likely, but we can all still enjoy this clear passion project.
I haven’t even gone into Sharlto Copley’s character who is also amazing, the fact that telekinesis is a thing in this film, or the absolutely cracking soundtrack with many songs performed by the director’s own band, Biting Elbows.
It’s sick. Get it watched.