TIFF 2015: Ilya Naishuller's First Person POV Action Film 'Hardcore'
by Marco Cerritos
September 18, 2015
Ilya Naishuller's Hardcore (watch the trailer) is a movie so violent, loud and fun it's guaranteed to offend and entertain in equal numbers. It's also the first of its kind, a first-person action adventure that plays out like a cinematic video game. Think of it as a hybrid of Crank and Robocop and you'll start to get an idea of how unique and insane this movie truly is. Those looking for plot and structure in their cinematic diet will have to look elsewhere because Hardcore is visual fast food all the way. The movie opens from your POV as "Henry", a man with a disfigured body and no memory of how he got knocked out in the first place.
The only other person in the room is Estelle (played by Haley Bennett), Henry's wife who is there to assist him with new robotic limbs that will make moving around easier. But just before she can finish the procedure intruders break in and kidnap her, leaving Henry no choice but to kick some ass and get her back.
That's the basic setup for Hardcore and once it's allowed to break loose and have fun, this movie moves like a freight train. Henry uses everything from parkour, helicopters and basic hand weapons to dismember the endless henchmen one by one. In typical video game fashion, Henry even gets his own tutorial on how to navigate his surroundings and stay alive. That assistance comes courtesy of Jimmy, a dubious figure who keeps getting killed as much as he helps our hero, respawning in a new body each time his help is needed. Character actor Sharlto Copley (of District 9, A-Team, Chappie) plays Jimmy and he clearly knows what kind of movie he's making. Every time he pops us as a new character he gives it a distinct flavor that keeps the fun going and our protagonist breathing.
Hardcore is a first-person action adventure that makes no apologies for being crass and visceral. Directed by music video auteur Ilya Naishuller, also known as "Biting Elbows", this is his first feature and while it's not perfect it's clear he loves to push people's buttons. Aided by producer Timur Bekmambetov, this Russian duo has crafted a wild ride loaded with sex and violence that should translate well globally.
Shot almost exclusively on GoPro cameras, Hardcore puts you directly in the action and rarely comes up for air. Movies like this that aim for endless action and thrills sometimes have a hard time sustaining their momentum before running out of steam. Luckily Hardcore doesn't run into this problem until well into its brisk ninety minutes so the damage is minimal. Another small warning is that some moviegoers might feel queasy with the film's constant jerky camera movements, but everyone else who endures this non-stop adrenaline rush is in for a fun time at the movies.
Marco's TIFF 2015 Rating: B
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