Saturday, August 6, 2016

Killing Sharlto Copley

Sharlto Copley has become a star of sorts, but it hasn't been easy.

That's because most everyone you know hates him in most everything.

Most everyone you know actually seems to like him in his breakout role, District 9, in which I didn't think he (or the movie) was all that effective.

Since then?

The way his performances are discussed is so dismissive and filled with bile that it's almost difficult to believe he's still getting work.

His next big role, The A-Team, promptly probably the least Copley-related flak we've gotten in the period since District 9. People don't really like that movie, but I don't think they care much about his performance one way or another.

Elysium? People hated him in that. Oldboy? People hated him in that. Maleficent? People hated him in that, I assume. Chappie? People really hated him in that.

I may not be part of "people," I guess, because I actually like all the films listed in the previous paragraph, and credit Copley as having a specifically positive influence on the two much maligned Neill Blomkamp films. But it should be no surprise that Hardcore Henry has now come along, and people think he sucks in that too.

So I imagine there would be a certain amount of pleasure for those people in watching him getting killed repeatedly.

It's kind of how people got a bit of smug schadenfreude out of watching Tom Cruise repeatedly killed in Edge of Tomorrow. "People" must have just loooooved watching Sharlto Copley buy it over and over again in this movie that is more like a video game than any movie has ever been like a video game, as it's shot entirely from the perspective of the viewer.

Now, Copley does not actually play the gamer in this movie. If he did, he wouldn't appear on screen at all (or only in mirrors). It's the gamer, the subjective person in the first person perspective, who is supposed to die repeatedly in a video game.

But Copley's character does follow video game logic as he appears regularly -- usually to give the title character information necessary for solving his mission, which is a video game touch if ever there were one -- and then conveniently dies. In all sorts of creative ways. He gets shot. He gets burnt. He gets his throat slit. He blows up. You name it. But he's always back again, for reasons that are sort of unconvincingly explained, eventually.

The point is, he gets killed over and over again, to the endless glee of the people who can't stand him.

Edge of Tomorrow was not the only of many better movies this put me in mind of. Hardcore Henry owes a huge debt to Crank, both for its high-octane, gonzo spree of violence and for the fact that the main character is forever in danger of expiring if he does not get properly charged up along the way. As I said, though, Crank is much better.

It also reminded me of Robocop, as the main character is a guy who gets beaten within an inch of his life and is revived into a mostly mechanical cyborg. As I said, though, Robocop is much better. (Can only vouch for the original as I have not seen the remake.)

I was even a bit reminded of Anomalisa. Anomalisa? Yes, Anomalisa. There comes a point when it seems like every other face he sees looks like Sharlto Copley. Of course, that's a stretch primarily for the sake of humor, as Hardcore Henry also features Henry's girlfriend, a maniacal villain with telekinesis, oodles of faceless minions who get dispatched in graphic ways, and plenty of naked strippers.

As I said, though, Anomalisa is much better.

But Hardcore Henry is not a total loss. The first person shooting technique takes barely ten minutes to become numbing, but I have to admit it must have been very difficult to film, even with GoPros mounted on heads. There's a lot of very precise action choreography here that they would have had to get right on the first attempt (or in one attempt, anyway), as well as plenty of visual trickery that still mystifies me a bit (a dozen Sharlto Copleys appearing in one particular shot, for example -- not at the same time, but in close enough proximity to each other that I can't see the technique that made it possible).

And Copley? Yeah, he gives his all. As usual.

Come on, he's alright.

One thing I'll say is that it was really funny to see Hardcore Henry right in the middle of MIFF. It's the perfect embodiment of the blending of high and low culture that comprises any cinephile's typical viewing schedule.

1 comment:

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