TIFF 2015 Review: Hardcore


This is the type of experimental movie that’s perfect for seeing on the big screen at a film festival, because you might not get to see it anywhere else. This year’s winner of the TIFF Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award, Hardcore is obviously a crowd-pleasing film about an indestructible half-cyborg half-man soldier with memory loss, the inability to speak, and a penchant for getting himself into (and by spilling lots of blood, out of) sticky situations. Oh, and the film is completely shot from a first-person perspective. That’s the “experimental” part I mentioned.

Hardcore is the first video-game movie that captures the breathless essence of a first-person shooter, without being based on a video-game at all. It uses all the common tropes from the interactive medium it takes its inspiration from, including a brief introductory sequence set in a hospital, where the nurse explains what’s happened to “you” (because really, this character is an avatar for the audience), attaches a cybernetic leg and arm to your body, and then wouldn’t you know it – the hospital is assaulted by terrorists led by the telekinetic AKAN and its up to “you” to stop them.

This is a film that is begging for a feature-length documentary about how it was made, and would probably be just as mind-boggling as the final project itself. The camera (and the stunt man attached to it) leaps from buildings, zip-lines down a skyscraper, engages in hand-to-hand combat with countless faceless henchmen, and is thrown into the air by telekinesis. I really want to know how it was all done and choreographed, because it’s a pretty stunning feat when you watch it all in a theatre. Those who are sensitive to motion sickness beware.

Your buddy through all this mayhem is actor Sharlto Copley (of District 9 fame) who accompanies us on the journey in several different guises – such as a secret agent, homeless man, hippie, WWII-era soldier, wheelchair-bound genius, and many more that I forget. His recurring appearances are a little strange at first, but the reason he can keep coming back as different people is skillfully explained using a plot point and video-game logic (where everyone can re-spawn after waiting five seconds).

It’s a fun and energetic thrill ride that surprisingly has a sparse but involving story to cut up the numerous set-pieces and allow the audience some breathing room before the camera just barely misses getting crushed by a car, falling off a bridge, and rolling behind cover, again. It’s a perfect popcorn thriller and an experience no other action film can touch (a two-hour session of Call of Duty on the other hand….).

Worth the watch, and the award.

Grade: B+


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