Hardcore Henry stretches interesting premise a bit thin
By Thomas Simpson
In 2013 director Ilya Naishuller made a two-part music video that featured insane action scenes shot from a first person perspective. One clip in particular, Bad Mother**** went viral, racking up millions of hits on YouTube. When the idea of creating a feature length film using the same technique was discussed, fans lobbied to get it made which resulted in Hardcore Henry.
Henry wakes up in a strange lab, a couple of limbs missing and suffering from amnesia. Estelle (Hayley Bennett), a scientist and Henry’s wife, patches him up turning him into a cyborg. The lab is then attacked by Akan, a psychotic (Danila Kozlovsky) villain with telepathic powers and a fondness for Estelle. Henry soon finds himself on the run with a simple mission, rescue his wife and kill loads of people in the process.
The frenetic action pays homage to films like Crank as well as video games such as Call of Duty. There is rarely a dull moment as Henry shoots, stabs and shatters his foes over 90 minutes in what feels like a live action video game. The issue here though is that the audience has no control over the events, we’re merely a spectator to Naishuller’s vision. As fun as the film starts out, the more you watch someone else play a video game the more restless you become.
Hardcore Henry is an ultra-violent tale that isn’t frugal when it comes to the brutality. There’s no depth to the story, which is fine, that’s not what it’s going for here. It’s brilliantly executed but the action does get a little repetitive around the halfway mark.
More than 10 stuntmen and cameramen played Henry who for the most part remains a faceless antagonist. While it’s difficult to root for our hero it’s easy to hate Akan thanks to Kozlovsky’s maniacal and sadistic portrayal. Copley is on form as always and also serves as the voice of Henry in many ways, as he furthers the story through the mysterious Jimmy.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Hardcore Henry it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to persuade or dissuade you from seeing it. Your mind will already have been made up if this film is for you. It’s a great gimmick but as a feature length movie it stretches a good idea pretty far.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.