Is POV the new Found Footage? If the crowd tonight at Hardcore Henry‘s U.S. premiere at SXSW is any indication, the answer is “yes.” I can’t quite tell if Hardcore Henry is a good movie, but it’s a blast, and definitely something new that I’m betting spawns a host of imitators.
Shot entirely from first-person perspective, Russian writer-director Ilya Naishuller has translated a video game to film, one that’s silly as hell, lacks any discernible point and has had all the stuff that stretches gamers’ play time to 15 or 20-odd hours cut out entirely.
Cartoonishly violent doesn’t begin to describe the unrelenting momentum of a story in which the silent protagonist lurches from one mission to the next, gleefully slaughtering enemies as explosions and collateral damage mount all around him. Until, that is, he comes up against a plot for world domination led by a villain straight out of a Resident Evil game that unfolds with all the gravity of WWE match. Along the way, an extremely game Sharlto Copley centers the film, playing a succession of absurd variations on the same character, who die with escalating brutality (and hilarity).
It’s not for everyone, and a lot of viewers might be made sick thanks to the jittery, fish eye lens through which everything is viewed. But the crowd at the Paramount theater ate it up, cheering every dismemberment, every broken limb, every mutilation, every comical murder as if they were seeing the film’s first instance of them. Most folks stuck around for the post-screening Q&A portion. At least half of the questions were from curious aspiring filmmakers who wanted to know, “how’d you do that?”
The answer, by the way, is that the production created a cage mount for a GoPro camera that fit over a stand-in’s head, along with lots and lots of meticulous and often risky choreography. That required plenty of trial and error — for instance, the realization that they had to make whomever was wearing the mount wear sunglasses too, or the other actors would look at their eyes rather than into the camera. It also made for some harrowing stunts; after one in particular, Copley and Naishuller spent several minutes terrified they’d accidentally killed the stand-in.
I’m not going to predict that STX Entertainment will have a Deadpool-size blockbuster when Hardcore Henry hits theaters April 8, but it surely will earn back that $10 million the company spent acquiring the film’s worldwide rights last fall in Toronto, along with the additional money spent updating the special effects for the worldwide release. Hardcore Henry landed big at TIFF of course, where it won the Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award and prompted a bidding war. Tonight proved that reception was no fluke.