Posts Tagged ‘Ilya Naishuller

22
Mar
19

Hardcore Henry, The Villainess

Hardcore Henry
A Chinese-financed, Russian-directed movie where you never see the protagonist’s face sounds like a great idea on paper. No wait, nevermind, it sounds like a terrible idea on paper, and it is even more terrible on screen. Hardcore Henry is an ode to the first-person shooter genre of videogames. I’m no stranger to the genre; I’ve played and enjoyed the classics from Doom to Goldeneye 64 to Portal 2 and beyond. However, this style of gameplay does not translate to the screen. In a game, you are the main character. In a movie, you can’t be the main character. You can’t empathize with Henry because there is no Henry, there is just what Henry sees and hears. A film requires the main character to be seen and heard so you can, with them, experience the situation and emotions they are caught up in. The first person gimmick might have worked for just the action scenes, but dedicating the entire movie to it just doesn’t work. It loses its novelty very quickly. Admittedly, a lot of the action scenes are fun and inventive, and I especially liked the motorcycle chase sequence, but almost the entire movie is action. There is no story. It’s just a parade of endless shooting and punching. The only glimmer of originality was the scene with Sharlto Copley’s clones dancing and singing, and I felt like they should have built the movie around the clone concept instead. Hardcore Henry has well-made action, and I laud the excellent choreography it had, but it was just not enough to make this a worthwhile experience.
Verdict: Shitty
The Villainess
The first scene in this movie is a ten-minute, first-person action sequence. I watched this immediately after Hardcore Henry, and I thought I had just inadvertently done a first-person double-feature. My heart sank. Fortunately, the movie never goes first-person again once the introductory scene concludes. The Villainess is a South Korean action movie about a super-assassin akin to Jason Bourne. And as amazing as the introductory sequence is, the film loses steam quickly and never fully recovers. The Villainess comprises two incredible action sequences that bookend an otherwise bloated and plodding middle. The bulk of the movie is learning the Villainess’ tragic backstory, her training to become an assassin, and her return to the real world. The movie is interspliced with flashbacks, but the audience gets no cue when the flashbacks begin, such as a fade or an auditory clue or a different color lens filter. Frequently, I couldn’t tell we were in a flashback until a good 30 seconds into one. The movie does this often enough it becomes disorienting. In the modern part of the film, the spy agency sends an undercover agent to manipulate the Villainess into marrying him, so he can keep tabs on her. However, this is pointless because she already has a handler and 24-hour surveillance. The marriage, in fact, causes the Villainess to botch an assassination, and unravels her entire life. Maybe this was the point of the film, but it’s impossible to tell. It feels more like bad writing as you watch it unfold. The middle section drag interminably until the Villainess finally confronts the main bad guy in a very cool bus-chase-ax-attack sequence. The camera moves with frenetic energy. Clearly, the director was enthusiastic about it, although he gets a bit gratuitous with the camera movements, sweeping up and down and around, when a simple static shot might have been more impactful. Plus, I could have done without the fish-eye lens shots. But, on the whole, the action scenes are refreshingly inventive, excellently choreographed, and thrilling. The Villainess has an ambiguous ending, but what is the audience meant to ponder? Is this an origin story? Are there going to be more films? She’s not villain-like at all, but certainly could have become a villain at the conclusion. In any case, The Villainess is a 2 hour film that should have been 90-minutes, and would have been improved with a more energetic second act. However, it’s action scenes are unimpeachable.
Verdict: Average



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