‘Hardcore Henry’ Review

hardcore_ver2

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Writer: Ilya Naishuller (Additional writing by Will Stewart)

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovksy, Haley Bennett, Oleg Poddubnyy, Andrew Dementiev and Tim Roth

Synopsis: A first-person action film from the eyes of Henry, who’s resurrected from death with no memory. He must discover his identity and save his wife from a warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

A couple of years ago, the music video for Biting Elbows’ “Bad Motherfucker” came out and it made a lot buzz when it did. It was an impressive – and bloody – first-person perspective, or POV, action video shot on a GoPro by Ilya Naishuller, the frontman of the band. So, when Naishuller was asked about extending that idea to a feature-length film in the same format by producer – and star of the film – Sharlto Copley and producer Timur Bekmambetov, he accepted the challenge. What we get is a full-fledged, jam-packed action film that will satisfy any movie fan that wanted or thought it would be cool to see a movie shot like a first-person shooter game. Is Hardcore Henry for everyone? No, but if you want to try and watch something new, then give the film a chance.

Hardcore Henry, despite its experimental format, is rather simple in terms of storytelling. The film is told through the eyes of Henry, who wakes up in a lab by his wife Estelle (Bennett) who gives him a cybernetic arm, leg and eyes after a terrible accident – that is never actually revealed – and Henry is about to get a new life, since he memories have also been erased. That is until the process is interpreted by a telekinetic warlord named Akan (Kozlovsky), who wants Henry for something. Estelle manages to get Henry out of the lab, only for Estelle to get kidnapped by Akan and Henry having to go save her with the help of Jimmy (Copley), or should I say, Jimmy’s.

MV5BMjEyMjQ2NzQyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE0MTk5NzE@._V1__SX1206_SY539_

Hardcore Henry doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works for film and was probably the best way to go. This kind of film lives off being ridiculous in the action, especially since the villain in the movie has telekinetic powers, Sharlto Copley plays wildly different characters all named Jimmy, the film is told in the POV format with a main character that does not talk, and it’s called Hardcore Henry.

On a technical level, Hardcore Henry is pretty successful. No matter how you feel about watching a whole movie told through the eyes of someone else, everything that happens onscreen is mind-blowingly great to see. The stunts and the set-pieces are all amazing to watch and I’m surprised that we didn’t read anyone getting seriously hurt or worse. So credit is due to the stunt team involved, and for Naishuller – in his directorial debut – for being able to pull everything off, because Hardcore Henry is filled with crazy stunts in every single action scene.

Not only that, but Naishuller making his first movie a movie that is filmed like a first-person shooter video game is pretty ballsy. Some parts even feel like a video game. None of the action sequences are the same, I mean sure there all pretty loud and have shaky camera work, but if you can make it past that, you’ll see how Naishuller tries his best to not make any of the action sequences the same. The action is pretty engaging and makes the film work even more. Again, if you’re not use to the format then Hardcore Henry is going to be pretty hard for you to watch. I’m a video gamer, so I’m use to the format, but even I felt a headache coming in near the end. The nice thing is that Naishuller takes into account the fact that not everyone is going to be ready for the POV style, and even slows the action down a bit, but when the action is on, the action is jam-packed and in your face (literally).

MV5BMjI5ODI2MzU2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjI0MTk5NzE@._V1__SX1206_SY583_

The only real person that gets any real screen time is Sharlto Copley, who steals every scene he’s in with his different characters. I won’t get into how that works, and Copley brings something different to every character that makes him a standout in every possible way. Kozlovsky’s Akan is clearly enjoying himself as the villain, and even has a certain charm about him that make him a pretty good villain, but if he was given more screen time he could have been even greater. Of course the film is told through Henry’s eyes, so that cuts out that option. Haley Bennett’s Estelle doesn’t get enough screen time to really shine, but she is good in the limited screen time she has.

Now, Hardcore Henry isn’t a perfect film by any means. The ending falls a bit flat and doesn’t really carry the emotional punch it probably should considering what happens, but the whole film doesn’t really have anything else going on. It’s a simple “get back your girl and kill the bad guys” story, which is fine as long as there is compelling characters, and while Hardcore Henry has two major compelling actors, it doesn’t mean it’s all that great. I’m not bashing the film by any means. Like I said, Hardcore Henry on a technical and stunt level is fantastic, but when it comes to everything else, it’s just okay.

All in all, Hardcore Henry will probably spark the curiosity of other studios and directors to try, but for the movie itself it’s not that bad. Ilya Naishuller does a fantastic job bringing the scope of this film together. An easy standout is Sharlto Copley and the format itself is an interesting experiment that worked for the most part, but it won’t be for everyone.

MV5BMTczODA0NDE4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU0NTU3NjE@._V1__SX1206_SY539_

Hardcore Henry

3 out of 5

‘The Hateful Eight’ Review

hateful_eight_ver10

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, James Parks, and Channing Tatum

Synopsis: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Despite the script leak, Quentin Tarantino continued his eighth film with his mystery Western, The Hateful Eight. He also did something special by shooting the film in 70mm. Now if you’re not a huge cinephile, or just know what that means, it probably doesn’t mean too much, but considering the rarity of how films are made nowadays, The Hateful Eight is a special film. This film is filled with the traditional and very noticeable Tarantino tropes and works, but Tarantino still finds a way to make the film feel different and make the audience feel a bit uncomfortable watching these strangers stuck in a cabin as the tension between all of them arise.

KurtRussellSamuelLJacksonHatefulEight

The film is set after the Civil War, and takes place in Wyoming as a blizzard comes roaring in. We follow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) hitching a ride with John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell), who is chained to his bounty Daisy Domergue (Leigh), who are on the way to Red Rock so Ruth can collect Daisy’s bounty. Along the way, they pick up former Confederate soldier Chris Mannix, who has just become the sheriff of Red Rock despite Ruth’s disbelief, and they all head to an inn in the mountains called Minnie’s Haberdashery. Once they get there, they meet the already there occupants in cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen), British gentlemen Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), former Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Dern), and Bob (Bichir), the man looking over Minnie’s as she’s away. Trapped in the inn for a few days as the blizzard blows over, Ruth and Warren try to figure out if everyone, if anyone, can be trusted which leads to a tension-filled environment that, in the typical Tarantino style, eventually goes into mayhem.

MV5BMDgxNmI1ZDgtOGUxMS00YzEzLTgzZTYtMzdlNWQ5MWM5NjNlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDUzOTQ5MjY@._V1__SX1213_SY537_

The timeline for the film isn’t just some random place setting. The fact that Samuel L. Jackson’s Warren is the only real African-American character does lend itself to the plot and the characters later on in the film. Major Warren actually has something that everyone can’t believe he has, and leads to some funny moments, but also more tension between Warren, Mannix, and Smithers. Hell, the fact that Warren fought on the opposite side of Mannix and Smithers is enough to always keep your eyes on them. Warren makes a great point once everyone knows that he has the thing no one can believes he has that makes a lot of sense, not just in the movie, but even in today’s world. The Hateful Eight isn’t trying to be political; it just makes some interesting political points.

MV5BMjEyMDI1MjkwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDA5MDM1NjE@._V1__SX1213_SY581_

What holds the film together is the very Tarantino-esque characters, and the great cast that brings them all to life. Of course, Samuel L. Jackson – the only actor in the cast that has worked with Tarantino the most – is great in this and delivers a great monologue-like speech around the beginning of the third act that could potentially send chills down your spine. It also reminds us why the film is called The Hateful Eight. On the other end, Kurt Russell’s John Ruth aka The Hangman doesn’t have a speech that makes us hate or feel awkward, although his mustache will probably make you envious, but the way he treats Daisy goes ranges from threatening to shoot her, despite wanting to hang her, to hitting her if she gets out of line. It’s an odd relationship that – somehow – seems to work once we see them juxtaposed to each other. Hey, speaking of Daisy, Jennifer Jason Leigh is just memorizing to watch. Daisy sometimes just blends into the background as we focus on the other characters, but every time Daisy is in the spotlight, she shines. One scene is particular had me going, which involved her simply sitting with a guitar and singing.

MV5BNDgwYjY1NzYtMWY1ZS00NTZhLTgxZTUtNzliNGUyMGY2NWFkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDUzOTQ5MjY@._V1__SX1213_SY537_

The supporting cast is equally great in what they are given. Walton Goggins is the highlight for me personally. Goggins is always a great supporting character guy and he can do anything that a director throws at him, and he does it here again and has one of the best arcs at the end of the film. Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Demian Bichir all have their moments to shine and bring some nice nuances to their roles. Bruce Dern doesn’t really do much until the middle of the film where his arch finally comes into play. Channing Tatum also pops up in a different role than he’s usually known for.

the-hateful-eight-domergue-screencap_1920.0

On a technical level, The Hateful Eight is great to look at. The cinematography by Robert Richardson really puts you in Minnie’s Haberdashery, which is a great set, and out in the wintery landscape of Wyoming. Moreover, legendary spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone score is both tense and a bit haunting, almost The Thing-like. The score is more haunting due to the fact the film is a slow burn through-and-through.

the-hateful-eight1

All in all, The Hateful Eight is a slow burn, scene chewing, mystery Western that makes you question every character until the end. The great cast and the characters they play are elevated even more thanks to the secluded and close-quarters environment. If you love Tarantino films, this will be right up your alley, although it can be arguably said that this may not be Tarantino best film, but it still a great one in his filmography.

 

The Hateful Eight

4.5 out of 5