29th Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Hard-Core’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Takayuki Yamada, Takeru Satoh, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Takuzo Kubikukuri, Kei Ishibashi | Written by Kousuke Mukai | Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita


I definitely do have a love for films are not only original but very strange as well. From the killer tyre movie Rubber, to the one-off brilliance of Swiss Army Man, to food that will murder you in Dead Sushi and there’s so many more I love. And Hard-Core, like those, is indeed a bit strange…

For about the first thirty minutes, Hard-Core doesn’t seem that odd. We see a guy, Ukon and his friend Ushiyama (who has a a learning disability) working in a derelict mine for a guy who believes there is gold there. These two then discover a robot in an abandoned factory and along with Ukon’s brother Sakon, their world changes forever.

Ukon is such a fascinating and brilliant character. I always felt like I shouldn’t like him but he is just very likeable despite some of the things he does. He punches people that annoy him when he’s in a bad mood (including his brother) and at first he doesn’t seem very empathetic. But you soon learn that this is not the case. He will clearly do anything for Ushiyama, a homeless man who has no family or long term connection to him but he sees that he needs him. It is a really nice relationship. His relationship with his bosses daughter is another interesting one. It shows some different emotions from him and puts him in situations I didn’t expect him to be in. He manages to produce a couple of really heartfelt moments as well, even after you see him get angry for very little reason.

The robot does produce all of my favourite moments though. Hard-Core is at it’s best when the robot is on screen. The scene in which he turns up to work with his new ‘friends’ had me burst out in laughter and from that point any time the robot is there and wearing regular clothes I couldn’t help but laugh. The fact that it is a robot is initially covered by pretending it is someone in cosplay and then that he is shy but after that, no-one seems to bat an eyelid that there’s this huge robot hanging out with two humans – and I loved that!

Hard-Core will make you smile. At one point the three friends enter a club to thumping music and then eventually start dancing. Then there’s this fantastic and truly surprising moment when the three main characters get in a fight outside the club that made me smile from ear to ear.

Unfortunately the final third does seem to be short on humour and the robot, meaning things weren’t as fun when it concentrates on Ukon’s life. The film could have been cut by about twenty minutes and I would have found it a much more entertaining watch. Because when its good it’s great. I wish it pushed itself more towards the craziness of the story because that is when it’s at its most enjoyable, without it it feels like many other films but with the robot, there’s something very unique.

*** 3/5

Hard-Core screened on Weds July 24th 2019 as part of this years Fantasia International Film Festival.


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