It was an accident. I had popped the movie on around midnight, meaning only to give it a quick scan to see if I might watch it later, if at all. I fully expected to find it silly, or badly shot, or overwrought and ridiculous in some way. A sci-fi cybernetic-themed action revenge flick shot as a first person shooter? Puh-leeze. Ten minutes later I was cussing myself, because in spite of my suspicions being partly confirmed in the opening scenes, I knew it had its hook in me. What the hell was going on? Who WERE these people chasing this guy? Who was the GUY HIMSELF? Part of the hook probably was that I was “the guy”, so immediately started taking a vested interest in his well-being. Which he would spend the next hour or so finding little of, much like me.
Two important things to know about this trailer: first, this is probably the most brilliant use of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, ever. And second, unlike most films, they didn’t pack the only two minutes of action into it. The whole film is like this:
Ninety minutes later, I snapped out of it and shook myself off. What the hell had just happened? Hardcore Henry is in fact many of the things I mentioned at the top. The plot is probably implausible. The entire film was shot from the first person. A couple of the characters are over-the-top, and almost comical in their over-acted hyperbole of paint-by-numbers, bad guy personae. But strangely, these are all important parts of what actually make it work.
This before and after reel gives you a quick look at how relentless the action is, and how cleverly effects were mixed with live action:
You will either love or hate the film, I can’t imagine a middle ground reaction. It’s extremely violent. Comical at times in terms of plot and execution. And, as mentioned, shot like a video game. But driving this relentless piece of innovation in style forward is the only kind of story that would probably work – a crazy one – and some rock solid screen talent, provided by Tim Roth (his reputation speaks for itself), Haley Bennett (write that name down), and Sharlto Copley ( Elysium, District 9, Chappie), who arguably could be a “next big thing”. He’s like the bastard child of the young Robert DeNiro and an early-career Nicolas Cage, if that child had been raised in South Africa, and looked like Harry Dean Stanton’s better-looking brother.
Why It’s Actually A Significant Film
Ignoring entirely the consumer experience of watching this film in particular, Sergey Valyaev and Seva Kaptur have done something pretty important here, and may very well be remembered for it. In case you hadn’t been paying attention, Virtual Reality is poised to become a billion dollar industry this year, with decades of potential growth moving forward. Whether or not this film itself is especially suited to VR (we’ll be trying it soon), it certainly blazes a trail in this direction, and did it with remarkably spartan gear.
How Was It Shot?
The film was shot almost entirely using a custom GoPro camera rig, and they quickly burned through several stuntmen/actors playing the role of Henry himself. It was a grueling experience, requiring a head-mounted rig, and a lot of stunting. For an in-depth look at how the POV work was done, check out this excellent piece on FXGuide.com.