Monday, 11 April 2016

Hardcore Henry (4 Stars)

This is a very unique film made in Russia. It was directed by Ilya Naishuller, the singer of the Russian indie rock group Biting Elbows. His only previous directing experience was a music video for his band, the song "Bad Motherfucker". This video was greatly praised for being shot in POV (point of view) mode, like a video game. Click here to watch the music video on YouTube, where it has more than 33 million views. Inspired by its success he decided to make a full length feature film in POV.

I know that the plot is less important than the POV gimmick itself, but this is roughly what the film is about. A man wakes up on an operating table, where he finds his limbs being replaced. He can't remember how he got there. A woman in the room tells him his name is Henry and she is his wife Estelle. In an attempt to jog his memory she puts his wedding ring back on his new hand. Before they can get better acquainted the laboratory is invaded by soldiers who kill the scientists. Only Henry and Estelle escape, but soon after Estelle is kidnapped. Henry spends the rest of the film trying to find his wife.

I was well aware that the film had received poor reviews. One comment was that "it's as much fun as watching someone else play a video game". For me that's not much of a problem. I enjoy watching other people play video games.

One other warning that I was given by Rebecca, a member of staff at the Cineworld cinema where I watch most of my films, is that customers had complained of motion sickness after watching the film. I scoffed at this, but when I watched it I understood what she meant. My eyes had difficulty in adjusting to the film for the first half hour. I think the problem is that I was looking through my own eyes, but in the large cinema my eyes were a long way in front of me. This disoriented me. After this I grew used to it. Then I left the cinema, and as I walked out I felt slightly unreal. It's difficult to explain what I mean. My feet felt as if they were far away. My whole world seemed out of sync. It took about 15 minutes before I felt normal again. I expect that this sensation will only be experienced by people who see the film in a cinema. Watching it at home on Blu-ray shouldn't produce the same effect.

I have to say, the film was enjoyable. Strange, quirky, but good fun. I can recommend it to my readers.

The most famous POV video game is "Doom". For me, I associate POV with Sierra's "Hero Quest", later renamed "Quest for Glory" after a copyright battle with Milton Bradley who had a game with the same name. Milton Bradley's game was released two years later than Sierra's game, but Milton Bradley had the better lawyers. Sierra's "Hero Quest" was released in 1989, but I bought it in 1990, when I had my first PC at home. It was actually a mixed mode game. When the hero walked around we saw him from a third person viewpoint, but when he engaged a creature in battle it changed to POV. Four sequels were made, Quest for Glory 2 to 5, but I only bought 2 to 4. When Quest for Glory 5 was released I already had my first Internet account, so I'd moved on from offline gaming.

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