Just over a week ago my lady and I went to the cinema to see Suicide Squad. I was well aware of the critical distain for the film but as my tastes frequently lead me to like things which critics hate, I went in with an open mind and looked forward to being wowed by the nastiest bunch of miscreants the world has ever depended on.
As we left the cinema after the film, my lady and I discussed and generally agreed that it "wasn't bad" but could have been much more. We posited that many of the critics probably watched it with higher expectations than we went in with and therefore marked it down unfairly. As first impressions go, I suppose that wasn't the worst.
However as we discussed more in the car on the way home we started to pick it apart a bit more and by the time our fifteen minute drive home had finished we were now at the point of: "ok, it was bad but not as bad as 'Batman vs Superman' (our yardstick for big budget action movie with extreme suck)". Further down a slippery slope then but not rock bottom.
However, the following evening while my Lady was at a hen night, I watched "Hardcore Henry".
To say that this experience put the previous night's less than thrilling one into it's proper perspective for me is something of an understatement. Simply put; I had a revelation which felt like an opening of my eyes.
Let me first say that HH is not for everyone for two key reasons: 1. It's filmed in the first person perspective of the eponymous protagonist, Henry, he of the hardcoreness and all that. 2. It's hyper violent and several levels above on gore beyond what most action/action-hero movies will go for.
The first point definitely presents a difficulty (in my opinion, supported by the evidence of my household) for non-gamers (i.e. non FPS gamers) who find that perspective just too unsettling to be able to get into the movie. As an avid gamer for decades, this perspective is second nature to me but I entered into the experience expecting to hate the "gimmick" especially as I'd be an observer without agency whereas my normal experience of the First Person perspective I generally have some sort of agency and ability to affect the action. However, I was completely wrong. It's no gimmick. It is an incredibly clever (and I imagine difficult to carry off so well) filming technique which really suited the whole tone and style of the story.
The Protagonist, Henry, who never speaks and through who's eyes you observe the world of the film somehow manages has far more charisma than any of the characters in SS.
In sharp contrast to the slow "backstory build" of SS, HH moves Henry along at a crazy pace almost from the get-go, hardly ever stopping for breath, yet manages to give Henry a character of his own with his motivations apparent (admittedly his number 1 motivation is a pretty simple one - save the girl) without having to do an hour of background.
The point I'm making is that the action in HH is a device to move the story forward... In SS, the story is a (poor) device to get to the next action sequence... it just doesn't work.
Add to that the fact that Sharlto Copley plays crazy ten different ways and every single one of them is ten times better than Jared Leto's attempt at the Joker and the yawning gulf in talent is cringingly visible. If this is Leto at his "method" best then it's a pretty shitty method in my opinion. What's he got in his tool-chest? "I need to make the Joker seem crazy now. Cackle. Done." Rinse-Repeat.
[Note: I started writing this after the movie and then forgot about it for the intervening time... Then last week the digital download version including extended edition came out and I rewatched... yep.. still sucks... Extended suck... so may as well continue where I left off]
And therein lies the rub of SS and why it doesn't work. The Joker is a 1 dimensional caricature who had no agency, no motivation, he exists as scenery and plot device and nothing more. That's bad... but what's worse is that this is true of every character.
They're also totally inconsistent. These are the baddest badasses on the planet and when they're let off the leash what do they do? They immediately form an unbreakable bond of friendship with each other after a three minute fight and subsequently with their jailer. Who knew that Stockholm syndrome could come into play so quickly? Oh... and Harley Quinn steals a bag... man, that's one crazy bad girl...
Ultimately my recommendation is: If you can take the first person perspective and hyper-violence and you're looking for a movie with badasses (with questionable moral compasses) then don't waste your money on SS. HH is 10 times the movie.