Hardcore Henry Blu-ray Review
Like my father always said, a grenade a day keeps the enemy at bay!The Point-of-View (POV) shot is well established. Plenty of genre films make use of it, but seldom is it completely relied upon. Unless, of course, you are watching Channel 4’s Peep Show. Feature films, on the other hand, only use it sparingly to add dramatic tension or to place the audience in the centre of the action (think of a certain scene in 2005’s Doom). Doom, the video game, pioneered the first person shooter that is such a success in the gaming industry and Hardcore Henry has a great deal in common with FPS games. It is told through the eyes, and actions, of a mute cyborg trying to discover his past all the while frantically battling a corrupt corporation, with endless shoot-outs, punch-ups and daring escapes.And that, pretty much sums up the plot – unknown protagonist battles his way through to a climactic showdown with a telekinetic megalomaniac; just like a video game. Nuggets of information are fed throughout the battles to get to the next set piece; just like a video game. And the final revelation is a twist on the central character; just like a video game. This film then, looks, acts, feels and plays like a video game in which you have no control over the player. It is frantic, face paced, shaky-cam throughout, with bloody, manic, wild, over-the-top action. (Ever wanted to know what it would be like to see the 'Burley Brawl' from The Matrix Reloaded from Neo’s point of view –now you can!)
Picture QualityThe disc presents a widescreen 1.85:1 1080p/24 transfer using the AVC codec and is region locked to B.
Filmed digitally, almost exclusively with GoPro Hero3 Black Edition cameras, the picture looks like an amateur parkour film (essentially that’s what it is, stuntmen strapped the camera to themselves and performed the wild stunts to capture the film) with all the finesse of a YouTube video. Detail is reasonable, there is some skin texture and clothing weave in some of the slower scenes (Jimmy’s camouflage suit is particularly well seen) while the background is crisp to a point.
Has all the finesse of a YouTube video
Colouring is very natural, but has that digital look. Primaries are reasonably bold, reds (blood or the scene set in the brothel) are quite vivid, while the blues of the sky are well realised.
Contrast and brightness are set to give reasonable blacks, there is a poor sense of depth to the frame, however, but this is more to do with the framing rather than anything else. Black levels are reasonably consistent, never are they pitch, but seldom do they grey. At the other end of the scale is where the limitations of the cameras are shown, plenty of clipping seen in clouds and anything against them.
Digitally there are the occasional compression issues, primarily macro blocking, but there is no edge enhancement, though aliasing and banding are also evident. Since this is a digital capture the source is in clean and bright but it's also the cause of all the issues, not the transfer.
Sound QualityJust the one track: English/Russian DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround. This track is as immersive as it gets! Right form the off, when ‘Henry’ is having his appendages fitted and the robot arms are moving around your head, you know this is going to be a special track (theatrically it had a Dolby Atmos release). Falling through the sky, dropping onto tarmac, rolling off of cars, gun shots all around, traffic, crowds, wind, explosions, the list of effects are as endless as the battles Henry has to get through and such is the steerage of the speakers you are right there, in the centre of it all; in this regard the surround stage mirrors the on-screen action to give an almost dizzying effect. The score too makes use of all the speakers. Bass is formidable with plenty of LF effects to keep the neighbours awake; it’s tightly controlled and not over bearing but adds just the right amount of kick to the chest. A stunning surround track.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – With director Ilya Naishuller and actor Sharlto Copley (Jimmy) who clearly have a great working relationship and rapport. Their discussion takes in pretty much all aspects of the production from how stunts were performed, the nature of POV, the stuntmen/cameramen, crew as extras, gaming, themes and locations, in what is a technical and anecdotal chat that barely lets up.
Blu-ray VerdictHardcore Henry is a fast-paced action piece filmed exclusively as POV shots. The story is that of an unstoppable cyborg called Henry who wakes with no memory battling his way through hordes of soldiers to find out who he is and why he is being pursued. It is non-stop action, battles, gun fights, fist fights, running, jumping, falling and killing. It is gory, frantic, funny in places, surreal in others (song and dance number) and all the while has a feel of a video game. By placing the audience as the protagonist you are right in the action, if you can stand the shaky-cam frantic all-over-the-place camerawork. No quite the unique film the makers claim it to be, but certainly something very, very different.
You are right in the action, if you can stand the shaky-cam
The Blu-ray package from Entertainment in Video is a reasonable set; the picture is a slave to its source (GoPro Hero3 Black Edition) and thus suffers from looking like amateurish YouTube footage, but detail, colouring and black level are reasonable; while the sound is utterly absorbing and immersive throughout, with effects galore! The only extra is an equally fast-paced, but very informative commentary.
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