Hyper-kinetic action movie ‘Hardcore Henry’ shot on GoPro cameras

Prepare for a mind-blowing immersive cinematic encounter in “Hardcore Henry” as it gives the audience a chance to experience the entire film through the point-of-view of its main character (cyborg) named Henry.

First time director Ilya Naishuller helms “Hardcore Henry” wherein Henry remembers nothing and his wife Estelle (played by Haley Bennett) has been kidnapped by an extremely powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries. The line between hero and villain in “Hardcore Henry” is tenuous as he tries to follow and uncover the devious plot against him within the city of Moscow. The audience – Henry, essentially – assesses in real time just who is friend and who is foe.

Shot almost entirely on GoPro cameras with custom engineered rigs, “Hardcore Henry” completely abandons, even eviscerates, traditional filmmaking and replaces it with a raw and immediate experience, allowing the audience to become one with the protagonist, so viewers go on a very personal and breathtaking journey with Henry. Wide-angle GoPro cameras, commonly used by sports fans and professionals to film their exploits, were used for the first-person style.

“Action cinema has always thrived when it captured the sensation of participating in dangerous situations that most people would much rather avoid in real life. The goal with ‘Hardcore Henry’ was to push it a step further, to put the audience right into the body of the protagonist, to have them experience the primal, exhilarating feeling that we usually view from a much safer distance,” says Naishuller.

Naishuller’s creativity, commitment and talent also impressed Bennett. “Even though this was Ilya’s first film, he knew exactly what he wanted and made me excited about helping him to fulfill his vision. He’s an incredibly dedicated artist,” Bennett says.

To take the concept from a short to a feature film, Naishuller and his team conducted hundreds of stabilization tests with GoPro rigs – there had to be enough balance between the hyper kinetic scenes and the more static (relatively speaking) portions. Achieving that balance required a fair amount of R&D, trial and error and blind faith but the payoff was worth it. “A big part of the pre-production process included the creation of magnetic stabilization rigs which allowed the team to mount the cameras on helmets and keep the picture comfortable for the audience,” editor Vlad Kaptur says.

“GoPro gave us access to some proprietary software that allowed for exposure control that they’ve since incorporated into the latest generation of their cameras. We were also expecting to break quite a few cameras, but during my shooting block we only busted two or three. We had about a dozen GoPro HERO3 Black Editions that GoPro provided us with. During one of the breaks from the shooting, GoPro released the HERO 3+ but we decided to keep using the original HERO3 to keep the picture consistent,” Naishuller adds.

“The camera rig was the most important piece of tech in getting the film to look and feel right. We hired an engineer friend of mine, Vladimir Kotihov, who was oddly enough, an American football player and knew a thing or two about helmets. We spent a long time designing and redesigning the helmet while simultaneously designing the stabilization system. It was magnet based and we went through about five or six prototypes. The first one looked like a medieval torture device before we got it where we needed it – something that provided good stabilization, light enough to not put too much pressure on the wearer and strong enough to withstand hits and general damage during the heavy-duty shoot. The final touch was attaching a Teradek transmitter and a zoom mic on it,” Kaptur recalls.

“Hardcore Henry” opens May 4, 2016 in cinemas from Pioneer Films.

Irreverent viral video expands to immersive videogame film ‘Hardcore Henry’

Ilya Naishuller is a Russian-born filmmaker and front man for the Moscow punk band Biting Elbows. His band’s groundbreaking, irreverent video “Bad Motherfucker” became a viral sensation, catching the attention of fans around the world, attracting over 120 million views. Producer/director Timur Bekmabetov was one of those fans and he encouraged Naishuller to expand his vision into a feature length film and the result was “Hardcore Henry,” an action-packed, immersive experience told completely from the point-of-view of a cyborg named Henry who’s been brought back from the dead by his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett) and soon finds himself surrounded with an army of mercenaries out to kill him and his wife.

Backed and produced by renowned Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, known for his groundbreaking films “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” along with hit Hollywood movies such as “Wanted” that starred Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy and the recent phenomenal “Unfriended” horror for the millennial generation, “Hardcore Henry” is Bekmambetov’s latest foray in pushing the envelope in filmmaking with the use of GoPro cameras for that immersive experience of a first-person’s POV.

Shot almost entirely on GoPro cameras with custom engineered rigs, “Hardcore Henry” completely abandons, even eviscerates, traditional filmmaking and replaces it with a raw and immediate experience, allowing the audience to become one with the protagonist, so viewers go on a very personal and breathtaking journey with Henry.

“Action cinema has always thrived when it captured the sensation of participating in dangerous situations that most people would much rather avoid in real life. The goal with ‘Hardcore Henry’ was to push it a step further, to put the audience right into the body of the protagonist, to have them experience the primal, exhilarating feeling that we usually view from a much safer distance,” says Naishuller.

“I couldn’t stop watching ‘Bad Motherf*cker.’ I admired Ilya’s daring, creative spirit,” says Bekmambetov. “There are three major factors that draw me to a project – originality and boldness and an interesting concept. That video was truly unique and unusual. Something that looks like pure insanity turns out to be a well thought out and rational project. Ilya’s process in achieving this effect is one of his most valuable assets,” Bekmambetov says.

“The second night after ‘Bad Motherf*cker’ had become such a hit, I got a message on FB from Timur. He’s a huge deal to us in Russia; he’s a cinematic hero. We met over Skype, he said congratulations and asked if I might be interested in expanding it into a feature film? To be honest, I was hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure it could be done well enough to transcend the gimmick. But Timur asked, ‘Would you not want to see a great POV action film in a cinema?’ I said yes, and he simply answered ‘Well, go make it then,’ Naishuller recounts. “The more I thought about it, the more interesting and challenging it seemed. My biggest concern was never the action, but if I could tell a story within this creative cage. I realized that if I could correctly accomplish both, it would make for a mind-blowing cinematic experience. So I flew to Los Angeles to meet Timur, who was amazing, really supportive and a big believer in the project. We talked about the challenges of making this as a full-length feature, hashed out some ideas, and shook hands on it. It was the easiest, most amazing experience. Not only did I just get a chance to work with one of the most respected Russian directors and producers, but that producer promised to allow me to make the film I was envisioning. I went back to Moscow, secured additional financing for the film, and began working on the script. Throughout the process, Timur kept his word, and I got the best of both worlds; a rare producer who was there anytime I needed his help or advice, and who never once pushed me to do anything I felt was wrong for the film. It really was an incredible experience. It also helps immensely that since Timur is an accomplished director as well as a producer, he truly understands the pressure that a director is under.”

“The best way to help promising filmmakers is to give them creative freedom, as well as full responsibility. It gave Ilya a chance to make his own mistakes and then to find ways of making things right in the end,” Bekmambetov explains.

“Hardcore Henry” opens May 4, 2016 in cinemas from Pioneer Films.

First-person shooter action film ‘Hardcore Henry’ shot in GoPro camera

Get ready to watch and play in “Hardcore Henry,” one of the most unflinchingly original wild-rides to hit the big screen in a long time. You experience the entire film through the main character Henry.

As the film begins, you remember nothing, just look around. Mainly because you’ve just been brought back from the dead by your wife (Haley Bennett). She tells you that your name is Henry. Five minutes later, you are being shot at, your wife has been kidnapped, and you should probably go get her back. Who’s got her? His name’s Akan (Danila Kozlovsky); he’s a powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries, and a plan for world domination. You’re also in an unfamiliar city of Moscow, and everyone wants you dead. Everyone except for a mysterious British fellow called Jimmy (Sharlto Copley.) He may be on your side, but you aren’t sure. If you can survive the insanity, and solve the mystery, you might just discover your purpose and the truth behind your identity.

A natural talent, with a striking presence, Haley Bennett who also takes on a leading role in “Hardcore Henry” is quickly establishing herself as one of Hollywood’s most dynamic actresses. Bennett was last seen in Antoine Fuqua’s hit film “The Equalizer” opposite Denzel Washington and Chloe Grace Moretz. Bennett made her on screen debut opposite Draw Barrymore and Hugh Grant in the Marc Lawrence-directed film “Music and Lyrics”. She then went on to star in a range of different films including the hugely successful “Marley and Me”opposite Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson.

The movie was shot on location in Moscow and plays out like a punk rock travel guide to the city. For Haley Bennett, Moscow was one of the film’s appeals and she took full advantage of the opportunity to explore Russia.

“I really appreciate that aspect of my profession which allows me to travel to distant lands and immerse myself in the history and culture. Russia has so much going on. You can just get lost. I was very far from home. Being a foreigner, the crew made sure I felt comfortable. I appreciated that, especially because there was a significant language barrier. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. My assistant, Lidia, took me on a little journey outside of the city of Moscow to the countryside. Her mother prepared us a very memorable home cooked Russian meal. That was a highlight. Seeing how her family lived and having a taste of their traditions,” Bennett relates.

Shot almost entirely on GoPro cameras with custom engineered rigs, “Hardcore Henry” completely abandons, even eviscerates, traditional filmmaking and replaces it with a raw and immediate experience, allowing the audience to become one with the protagonist, so viewers go on a very personal and breathtaking journey with Henry. It goes to show that the GoPro is not just the best travel camera but a professional tool.

Brace for an all-new viewing experience when “Hardcore Henry” opens May 4, 2016 in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.