Toronto 2015 Review: HARDCORE's Visceral Action Will Squeeze Your Balls Off

Festivals Editor; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
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Toronto 2015 Review: HARDCORE's Visceral Action Will Squeeze Your Balls Off

In some number of years from now when Virtual Reality is finally really here and we're all immersed in first person narratives, we'll look back at Ilya Naishuller's Hardcore and ask, "Were we all really so impressed by this film?" Yes. Yes we were. Hardcore is the first feature film to fully realize the first person "shooter" perspective. And while we are all plenty familiar with it from video games, on the silver screen, this is ridiculously impressive.

While the narrative style is important, the story is less so. The plot revolves around the fact that you are an amnesiac cyborg. There's a telekinetic bad guy after you. Different people show up to guide you along in typical video game fashion. Most notable is Sharlto Copley who keeps appearing as a variety of clones... Or something. It doesn't really matter. Hardcore is far from the heights of narrative art. It's not trying to be.

What Hardcore is trying to be is a nonstop thrill ride. At this, it succeeds wildly. Whether it's hand to hand combat or guns-blazing shoot outs, the visceral element is undeniable. The most impressive sequences are the more kinetic ones. Parkour moves up the side of a building or falling from a helicopter feel amazing. It points to how incredible these things will be once we can strap on a helmet. But even pre-VR, the feel-it factor is there and the film has multiple stomach dropping moments straight out of a roller coaster ride.

Naishuller's great success in Hardcore is his continuing ability to up the ante. The fights get longer, the enemies more numerous, and the stunts more impressive. Any fear that he might not be able to replicate the action from his impressive Bad Motherfucker proof-of-concept short are quickly assuaged. But it is no doubt relentless and there are only a few places to breathe during what is quite possibly the most violent film of all time.

This isn't to say there aren't places to improve. In some ways, Hardcore is a proof-of-concept on its own. Most notably, the CGI isn't up to the standards of bigger budgeted action movies and the time jumps can be a bit jarring at times. But if the main question is, will audiences enjoy a first-person action feature, the answer seems to be an emphatic yes.

We are accustomed to the tropes of the first-person video game and they are obviously borrowed from heavily in Hardcore. This likely accounts for the film's generally light feeling story, as most video games have many hours to let their narratives expand. The non-speaking protagonist has been tuned to this format and will just take a little tweaking to get to a fully developed "good story." Regardless Hardcore does many things right and is an all-out joy to watch. This feels like the beginning of an incredible new genre of experiential cinema. Hold on tight.

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ActionFirst PersonHardcoreMidnightMidnight MadnessSharlto CopleyTIFFViolence

More about Hardcore

  • Omar Hauksson

    This needs to be released for the Oculus Rift and other VR glasses.

  • Roger Rami

    Here is the trailer of Hotel Inferno came out from 2013 which was done POV style also I think this was originally a Italian or German independent film. But you could buy this movie dubbed also. https://www.youtube.com/wat...

  • Roger Rami

    Well I will check this movie out for sure and the trailer looks fun BUT I wouldn't say the first. There was a horror/action style pov first person shooter style movie called Hotel Inferno. It should be on youtube either the trailer or the movie itself another enjoyable film.

  • Drac Dillinger

    If you consider Hardcore a distillation of 80's cyberpunk anime, then it's an absolute masterpiece. The tropes are all present: cyber-augmented escapee from a shadow ops government lab/megacorp, waify white-haired psychic supervillain, squads of mirrorshaded hitmen, latex-wrapped babes with swords, VR/future-tech and most importantly, bone-shattering, limp-ripping ultraviolence. It's like smashing Akira and The Guyver together with drippings of Wicked City--it's an absolutely incredible experience. The review above also neglects to mention Sharlto Copley's presence in the film and how his pitch-perfect multi-character performance is essential to Hardcore's success; he guides the audience through the breakneck, wild journey, grounding the film and allowing you moments to empathize with the hero. After this versatile appearance and Chappie, dude deserves some serious accolades.

    Anyway, Hardcore is a splatterpunk/cyberpunk instant classic and the screening gave me serious feelings of the Midnight Madnesses of old: loud cheers, groans and screams from the audience and thunderous applause at the end.

  • loempiavreter

    Are there any videogame-like 'bosses' in it except for the psychic white haired guy?

  • ToryK

    Did you just say Guyver and Akira smashed together? Well, I wanted to see it before, but now I need to see it yesterday. Others have also noted the Neveldine/Taylor vibes they're getting, and I'm digging that too. On a side note, those guys are underrated. There's a little bit of brains to their buffoonery. At least in the reasoning behind it, I think.

  • omnisemantic1

    Maybe I've played too many FPS games back in the day, but gotta say that movie somehow does not look particularly inspiring - kinda like the first Crank with different POV and not as funny... Will check it out for sure when I have the chance tho ^^

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