TIFF 2015: Hardcore
Roger Ebert said that video games can never be art, and director Ilya Naishuller is hellbent on proving him right with Hardcore. Promoted as the first POV action film, Hardcore‘s first-person perspective looks, feels and acts like a random shoot-em-up video game crapped out by a B-tier game company any old year. Looking through the eyes of Henry, a Robocop-like man who’s just been reassembled into a man/machine hybrid after a terrible accident, the film establishes its flimsy objective within the first several minutes: save his wife Estelle (Hayley Bennett) from the clutches of her evil, telekinetic boss Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) whose company put Henry together. After escaping from Akan’s lab (which happens to be a giant blimp in the sky), Henry slaughters his way through Akan’s seemingly endless army of soldiers to get Estelle back. And along the way he’s helped by Jimmy (Shalto Copley), a former scientist of Akan’s set on taking him down.
There’s little to say about why Hardcore is so bad. Put simply, it amounts to watching someone else play a very boring video game on God mode, with tits and gore thrown in to satiate audiences with the attention span of a goldfish. It’s infantile trash from front to end, with a few neat moments of stunt work that get lost amidst the numbing onslaught of violence. Copley has fun with it at least, and continues to prove himself as a reliable and charismatic presence in whatever he does. But Hardcore really has no appealing factors, unless you happen to be a 13-year-old boy. Considering the POV format (the film was mostly shot on GoPros), Naishuller could have had some fun or at least used the hectic, low-quality aspects of his cameras’ technology to do some neat things. Instead, he just throws out one fight after another, like he’s just mindlessly slamming his head against a brick wall over and over again. If I was given the choice, I’d probably take the brick wall over watching Hardcore again.