April 8, 2016 by Vinnie Leduc
Hardcore Henry wasn’t on our list of most anticipated movies this year, not even in the honorable mentions, but it probably should have. That’s because when the first trailer was released a few months ago, it seemed like it had potential to be a groundbreaking original and instant classic.
Filmed almost completely by specially rigged GoPro cameras, Hardcore Henry lets the viewer experience an entire ultraviolent action movie through the eyes and ears of the titular character. You, the audience, are Henry. This may be as close as you’ll ever get to being an action hero on the silver screen.
You wake up with no memory, no ability to speak, some super strength-granting bionic limbs, a damsel in distress, and an army of thugs hunting you down. Now watch yourself shut the front door, go Rambo on every poor soul unlucky enough to cross your path, and enjoy the next 90 minutes of hardcore POV action.
Do those last few words sound familiar? Unfortunately, Hardcore Henry is too similar to porn when it comes to the actual story. But you probably don’t care about that as much, so more on that later. First of all, will this motion picture give you motion sickness? I’ve never had this problem from these types of movies, but it’s safe to say if you couldn’t handle The Blair Witch Project, the first Cloverfield, or other frenetic found footage films, you’ll probably barf in Hardcore Henry.
Secondly, how’s the action? Mostly awesome, but not without its share of flaws. There are plenty of video game moments that are far superior to anything similar that’s been tried before, including actual adaptations like Doom, but the gimmick lost its luster for me several times before jolting me back into focus. Otherwise, the highlights of Hardcore Henry are very high.
Think Mirror’s Edge + Crank. That’s a cool concept with bold ambitions, but Hardcore Henry suffers from some shaky execution that compromises its big promises. You often can’t keep complete track of what exactly is going on in terms of the action, but for these moments you’re shown enough to get the basic idea. However, there do exist more polished parts that exhibit detailed choreography and skillful stunts that will wow anybody.
The plot is even harder to follow and arguably more of a mess than that in Batman v Superman. Was there one? I think so, but a lot of it is unclear, and I was distracted by how weird and lame the villain was (I could be talking about Dawn of Justice or Hardcore Henry here). Thankfully, Sharlto Copley is an energetic joy to watch throughout most of the movie.
Hardcore Henry is a creative idea that’s held together by an admirable effort from writer/director Ilya Naishuller in his feature film debut. It needs some refinement and a lot of work on a story, but that’s understandably difficult to shape when you’re vastly limited by the presentation. Check out Naishuller’s music videos “The Stampede” and “Bad Motherf—er”, which are essentially spiritual prequels, and if you want to see a lot more of that and then some, go see Hardcore Henry. Hardcore Henry gets 3 out of 5 stars (Good).