Hardcore Henry (2015)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres / Traits: Action, Action Thriller, Sci-Fi Action, Cinéma Vérité
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Ilya Naishuller Ilya Naishuller
Sharlto Copley Sharlto Copley
Danila Kozlovsky Danila Kozlovsky
Haley Bennett Haley Bennett
Tim Roth Tim Roth
Andrei Dementiev Andrei Dementiev

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: October 09, 2016
When Hardcore Henry came out, I was certainly intrigued at the concept. It's an action movie entirely from the point of view of its titular character, a first person shooter brought to life. I purposefully skipped catching this in theaters (I had no interest in fighting the inevitable motion sickness), but I finally got a chance to catch it on a more manageable TV screen.

In a secret lab floating high above a Russian city, Henry awakens to a horrible discovery. The doctor working on him, Estelle, tells him that he's been the victim of some terrible accident and has been converted into a cyborg (battery powered heart, reinforced skeletons, cameras wired into his eyes). She also tells him she's his wife. Unfortunately, before she can restore his speech or his memory, the lab is attacked by Akan, a telekinetic terrorist who wants to claim her research for his own means. The couple manages to take an escape pod to the streets below. Naturally, Akan's men are waiting for them and Estelle is kidnapped. With his only ally being a strange man named Jimmy who seems to have more lives than a cat, Henry sets out on an uber-violent rescue mission.

Like I said, the entire movie is filmed from the aforementioned cameras in his eyes. We're literally looking through Henry's point-of-view as he goes about his high octane campaign. The shooting, the parkour, the high-altitude dives, the explosions, everything. Again, I expected the camera to be whipping around all over the place, leaving me with no idea what was going on and a churning stomach by the half-way point. That surprisingly wasn't the case. Our boy Henry has a pretty wicked focus in a firefight and even the scenes with parkour or being tossed off the back of a moving car were not nearly as shaky as you'd expect. I find it amazing that this first person view was actually more coherent than 95% of action movies that are shot in the traditional third person are. It was the biggest reason I thought the novelty of this camera angle would be a complete waste of time. With that said, it's still just a novelty. Yeah, it was an extremely fun gimmick, but other than maybe a few copycats (unlikely given the difficulty of this method) and any Hardcore Henry sequels that might be released, I don't see this format sweeping the genre.

When I said this was a first person shooter come to life, well that's exactly the approach they were going for. Unfortunately, it came at great detriment to the story. With a main protagonist that can't speak, it's impossible to actually connect with the man. It's a somewhat ironic flaw, being the whole movie is from his perspective. The only thing we find ourselves relating with him is his confusion. Jimmy pops up here and there to add a bit of story line, but we spend the entire movie wondering who Akan is, why he has those amazing powers, why Jimmy is seemingly immortal, why the filmmakers decided put a song and dance number in the middle of the movie. All of the in-between is just massive firefights with squads of faceless enemies. Sure, it's an absolute blast, but I would have preferred just a bit more meat on the bone. To their credit, I will say that those action scenes felt like they actually came from a movie and not a video game. It's an appreciation that I didn't even know I had until that last assault on Akan began. You see, that fight absolutely feels like a video game level, and I noticed the difference immediately. Again, while I don't see it reshaping cinema the way the found footage gimmick did, it can certainly carry a franchise, and provided the sequels keep that action movie tone, they can definitely provide some much-needed substance to the story.

As you can imagine, there's not much in the way of characters here. Hell, Henry himself was played by over ten different people. With that said, Sharlto Copley definitely deserves a thumbs up for his role of Jimmy. The character keeps popping up in crazy disguises, each one different and each one played expertly. It only gets better when he explains how he's come about this skill. We've also got Haley Bennett and Danila Kozlovsky as Estelle and Akan respectively. There was nothing special about their performances of these two stock characters, but they held their own well enough. Finally, we have a small cameo from Mr. Orange himself, Tim Roth. He only got about half a paragraph of dialogue, but it had an awesome delivery and provides us with a bit of characterization for Henry. We need all of that we can get.

So, I really liked Hardcore Henry. It's gimmick isn't going to redefine the action genre or anything, but it'll at least provide a unique franchise. Give it a shot; you won't even need a barf bag. 7/10.
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