A film like Hardcore Henry rests on the premise of it. Shot completely with GoPro cameras, Hardcore Henry is the first film of its kind that blends the kind of VR experiences that are going to blanket the market with videogame storytelling.
The film opens with a first-person view of Henry, awoken in a laboratory setting and being reconstructed by science-types. Pretty soon, it's clear that something is going on and you - sorry, Henry - has got to figure out what's happening. Along the way, he meets Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) who informs him that his battery heart is running low and he'll need a jump pretty soon. Sounds a bit like Crank, doesn't it? That's essentially what's going on with Hardcore Henry. Crank, minus Jason Statham and the charm of it all and told through GoPro cameras.
The story, if you can call it that, isn't hugely important to the overall experience. In fact, that's essentially what the film is - a virtual-reality experience rather than a cohesive story or narrative. On that basis, sure, it works. For about thirty minutes. Pretty soon, the whole schtick runs dry and you'll find yourself with a crushing headache and, most likely, a good deal of nausea to go along with it. The action is pretty relentless and, for the most part, it's quite well choreographed. You'll find yourself chuckling along, especially during the opening motorway sequence and the skyscraper-set finale.
Director Ilya Naishuller has crafted something definitely original here with Hardcore Henry and, on that basis alone, deserves a lot of kudos. What began as a music video has now grown to a fully-fledged film with a decent budget and some entertaining moments. The downside, however, is that the experiment doesn't really work. When you strip away the premise - an action film told entirely in first-person - there's pretty much nothing there. The dialogue is stupid, the music and sound design is so loud as to be genuinely ear-destroying and, while all this is part of the experience, it doesn't really hold your attention for much long.
It's like being stuck inside a YouTube video that's fun for about twenty minutes, but then punishes you for a further hour to get the point home. Interesting, definitely, but too full-on to be anything other than a gimmick.