A man wakes up in a laboratory with no memory and a couple of cybernetic limbs, and is thrust into a violent quest to rescue his kidnapped wife.
Films with sections seen from a first-person viewpoint are nothing new. The Rock’s marines-on-Mars video game adaptation Doom did it more than a decade ago. Lady In The Lake, a Raymond Chandler adaptation, was shot entirely like that, and that was in 1947. Still, it’s rare enough to be proclaimed as a selling point, which is exactly what’s been done with Hardcore Henry — billed as the first action film to do it all the way through to avoid awkward Lady In The Lake pedantry.
As the bodies stack up, in inverse correlation to your interest levels, you’ll wish you could turn the damn thing off.
Henry, our protagonist (you, ostensibly), wakes up with no memory, no voice and with his wife, Estelle, a budget Jennifer Lawrence (actually Haley Bennett), attaching cybernetic limbs in a sci-fi operating room. This facility is then attacked. Henry just manages to escape, but not before his wife is kidnapped by the bleached blond villain, who appears to have telekinetic powers for some reason. And so begins an increasingly tedious and violent adventure through a Russian city and its surroundings, taking in such video-game cliché locations as ‘strip club’, ‘the woods’ and ‘crumbling building’, with Sharlto Copley in various guises (punk, British solider, homeless man) as your guide.
In essence, it is a first-person shooter in cinematic form, but even if you’d gladly watch a stream of Battlefield 4 on Twitch for 90 minutes, you should still pause before seeing this. Because the filmmakers fundamentally seem to misunderstand how the human eye works, in that, it can move within its socket. So just because you shake your head, it doesn’t mean what you’re looking at will also move from left to right (go on, try it — naturally your eyes will stayed focused on one spot). It’s the same for running, climbing up buildings or leaping from one moving vehicle to another — the film presents these as disorientating experiences when, in reality, they (or at least the first two) are anything but. How would anyone go for a jog round the park if they saw the same juddery way Henry is presented as seeing? It would be chaos.
Could this be forgiven if there was an engaging story to follow? Or even a sense of fun? It’s a moot point, because there isn’t. Even the most rushed PS4 shooter is given more consideration than this appears to have been. And as the bodies stack up, almost in exact inverse correlation to your dwindling interest levels, you’ll wish you could do what you do if a game is starting to bore you – just hit a button to turn the damn thing off.
Light on plot, high on braindead action, it turns out there’s a reason hardly any films are shot in first-person view — it’s just not a very good idea.