HARDCORE HENRY (2016): More Rollercoaster Than Movie

Henry is just an average guy... An average guy who was blown to pieces, rebuilt as a cyborg and now has to tear his way through Russia to save his wife from a telekinetic madman who looks and sounds like an albino Tommy Wiseau. Yup, perfectly normal guy with first world problems.

What's the Meaning of This?

To the uninitiated (which is precisely NO ONE reading this review), Hardcore Henry is the crazy, feature length, first person action movie straight from the mind of director/cameraman/stunt wizard Ilya Naishuller. The film is the logical next step after his wildly popular music video “Bad Motherfucker” hit it big on YouTube with over 32 million views. The biggest question mark for this film is “can a viral YouTube video translate into an entertaining feature film?”

The "Story"

Even by action movie standards, Hardcore Henry's plot is paper thin. The film has a pretty simple rhythm to its story: Henry gets in trouble, kills his way out of it, is given an objective to go accomplish, gets into a dangerous situation that he has to kill his way out of, rinse and repeat until the credits. Henry himself is less of a character and more an avatar similar to Gordon Freeman in Halflife. In fact, he never even utters a word for the entire film.  It's impossible to relate to Henry because he's supposed to be YOU.

Sharlto Copley, who plays Jimmy, is the closest thing to a layered character this film has; though the word “characters” would be more appropriate. He keeps showing up, dying horribly and then showing up again with a totally different look and personality. He OWNS every scene he's in and gives the movie a much needed injection of charm.

More Rollercoaster Than Movie

Let's get this out of the way right now, if you're even remotely concerned about motion sickness then this movie probably isn't for you. First person fight scenes are one thing, but first person Parkour and stunts are another thing entirely. It took about twenty minutes of HH's insane camerawork to get my eyes/brain acclimated to the visual style. Once I'd re-calibrated, the film became a grand spectacle of action and stunts that was like 90 minutes of straight adrenaline.

Much ink has been spilled over the limitations of the first person perspective, but it's rare for a film to capture so much raw intensity from its action sequences. The rush you feel when Henry enters a dangerous situation is palpable; when he picks up a sword and a pistol and rushes at enemy soldiers, you can't help but get a rush. Despite the first person perspective, the action of Hardcore Henry is more coherent than most Hollywood action scenes of the last ten years.

Destined for Cult Status?

Hardcore Henry is less a movie and more an experience; an experience that must be earned.  It's the kind of film that is divisive by its very nature; the shell-shocked audience at my screening is an obvious indication of that.  Only true action junkies need apply.

In a summer where most films will entertain audiences by placating to them and their expectations, it's refreshing to see an absolutely insane movie created through the sheer inspiration of one filmmaker.

Hardcore Henry is a movie that's not for everyone, but the few that succumb to its violent charms will no doubt LOVE it. The fact that you can see this scrappy, violent little Russian actioner in a theater next to Batman V Superman is oddly comforting. Hardcore Henry may not start a revolution, but it is a breathe of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant genre.


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