Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Andrey Dementyev, Dasha Charusha, Sveta Ustinova
Release Date: April 8th, 2016
Hardcore Henry may be a unique action movie but that doesn’t mean it’s a quality one. The film puts viewers in the driver’s seat letting its audience witness the mayhem and carnage of a day of fighting as if they were the star of the film. The question remains though: why would an audience be interested in witnessing a first-person shooter game when they could be playing one themselves?
When the first –person shooter game Goldeneye premiered in 1997, seek I remember playing it at friends’ houses. The buzz about that game and the excitement it created was palpable. Hardcore Henry seems to have a similar goal. It wants you the audience to feel like part of the story.
In one of the opening scenes, price a man-turned-cyborg (similar to Robocop in many ways) named Henry awakens to find a beautiful woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett) adjusting his new mechanical limbs. Estelle notes that she’s Henry’s wife but that he may not remember it. During these scenes, the film’s technically-interesting concept is on full display.
Audiences witness the action the way Henry does. They don’t see Henry’s face onscreen (save for one quick shot near the end). Nor do they hear Henry’s voice (the software hasn’t been inserted yet). They simply watch from Henry’s perspective as this character fights, runs and escapes the cruel grasp of the enigmatic Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a madman who wants Henry’s prototype.
The film’s gimmick– which was brought to life using GoPro cameras– is interesting and at times, it really works. A perfect example of this is a rooftop chase sequence where Henry chases a criminal across a slim landing. In this scene, the concept really comes alive and puts the viewer in the action. It’s compelling and surprising enough to really keep the energy going.
However, too much of the film is tiring gun battles and fights where the film’s gimmick becomes tiresome and even a bit nauseating. There’s only so many times one wants to watch similar scenes f violence without anything unique to make any of them stand out. With a narrator who doesn’t talk, it’s also hard to be truly interested in who he is and it’s hard to be enthralled after he beats a dozen men to death.
There are a few nice touches here sprinkled in from time to time to lessen the monotony. Sharlto Copley offers a few great highlights as Jimmy, an ally of Henry’s who seemingly gets killed time and again but returns to the action undeterred. In one brief musical moment, he sings using a variety of different bodies as his vessel. The scene feels out of place here (an all-too-brief respite from the violence) but at least lightens up the tone of the feature.
When Jimmy notes “There’s a certain stigma against blokes who like musicals,” the line offers a bit of humor in a movie that lacks a lot of character interplay and wit.
In the end, it’s hard to dismiss Hardcore Henry outright. The format of the story does get repetitive (kill, reload, kill again) and because it’s set up to present the audience as the main character, there’s a lack of character and depth here. That being said, there were a few moments where the concept does work nicely (especially the roof scene) and a few brief interludes where the screenplay by Naishuller and Will Stewar offers a few nice surprises. The soundtrack here was also a pleasant surprise with a few nicely-chosen songs.
But all of those advantages aren’t enough to keep this action movie from feeling over-done and gimmicky. This concept will likely be used again in the near future but one only hopes that it will offer better results than this.
Review by: John Hanlon