Hardcore Henry – 3 out of 5
I love action films and I really enjoy video games. While first person shooters might not be my go-to games (I’m not really a Call of Duty type of dude) there are plenty in this genre that I do enjoy. So, when these two ideas came together to form Hardcore Henry I was endlessly intrigued. Then, when I saw the R-brand trailer, I was really interested. Well, I finally sat down with this one-of-a-kind action film and, I have to say, I wasn’t too into it.
|Although, I do concede that some moments were really cool!|
|Good thing he married a cybernetics engineer...|
imagine if he married an accounted. He'd be
A man named Henry (played by too many people to even begin to list here) finds himself suddenly revived in a laboratory by a woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett). She claims that he is both her husband and a potential star of a new version of The Six Million Dollar Man after he is rebuilt with cybernetic implants after an accident. After a warlord named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) invades the lab, Henry is thrown into a chaotic race against time as he has to save his wife from the man and figure out what is happening to him. Along for the adventure is a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley); he seems to have all the answers and is leading Henry to something but he has the bad habit of constantly dying and coming back as a different version of himself.
|I was wondering when I would get to see Copley play a guy hopped up on |
coke while in some animal print undies. Finally!
|Watching someone fall in first person perspective|
is surprisingly relaxing.
The main selling point of Hardcore Henry is the fact it is shot entirely in the first person, theoretically putting you directly in the action. In reality, however, I found a film that has some saving graces but is entirely bogged down but a product that is too repetitive and ends up feeling like it’s all sizzle without the steak. The moment the film starts it feels like the intro of a video game and that’s actually a cool thing. Hell, there’s even a ton of references of game tropes and game-based gags throughout the film that work and are genuinely a neat addition. However, the biggest problem is that video games are an active experience where you take control of the character and, when the game is a first person shooter, you are essential the main character and you are in control. You don’t get that with Hardcore Henry.
|If only the screen started to glow red when Henry got hurt...|
To boil it down, Hardcore Henry felt like a passive experience for me as a viewer and, despite seeing everything through Henry’s eyes, I never really felt like I was a participant. Granted, it’s a movie and there’s obvious limitations that prevent me from feeling like I’m a part of the adventure but the first person gimmick is meant to make you feel like you are going through the ordeal Henry is going through but the fact that Henry is essentially a faceless cardboard cutout of a character who gets no real development and has no meaningful arc made for a film that felt empty and shallow. This could have worked as a popcorn action film but there were other problems that prevented it from hitting that mark.
|"Hi, I'm Henry's dad; Tim Roth, this is the closest you'll see to any depth|
given to this character. Thanks!"
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some very cool action moments in Hardcore Henry but these are bogged down tremendously by the repetitive and formulaic approach the plot takes. The film follows a very obvious path during its entire running length as we see Henry greeted by Jimmy, Jimmy delivers some exposition (because Henry is mute, so all developments are lazily explained directly to Henry and, essentially, the viewer), Jimmy then dies, chase scene follows or action scene commences and repeat. This made the film very tedious and, even when I found myself saying, “Wow, that part was really cool,” I discovered I couldn’t get fully invested in what I was seeing because of its color-by-numbers approach and pattern. Not to mention that a lot of the fist fight parts were kinda hard to watch as the first person perspective made things very shaky and unfocused.
|I will say this, though, this version of Jimmy was fantastic.|
Probably my favorite version.
I also had issues with the film’s antagonist Akan. I wasn’t too impressed with Danila Kozlovsky’s performances and the character just wasn’t that interesting. However, despite these many set-backs, Hardcore Henry does have some elements working heavily in its favor and I can’t deny the marvel of filmmaking magic that it was. The sheer nightmare of logistics that came from filming and editing this piece is really something to behold and warrants a viewing for its technical wizardry alone. Additionally, the film provides some entertaining gags, has some fantastic music that compliments the chase scenes and action moments and Sharlto Copley’s character (characters?) steals the film. Hell, I was more interested in his backstory than I was in Henry’s past or future.
|Akan kinda looks like a boss you'd see in the Metal Gear series.|
Hardcore Henry is notable for a major reason but that reason also ends up just being a gimmick—and like most films made on a gimmick, the rest of the product suffers. The film isn’t too boring and didn’t feel like a waste of time but with its lack of character development and due to its obvious formula, the film proved to be less entertaining than I had hoped it would have been. It has its moments here and there that are definitely fun and very badass to take in but, in its entirety, I found the film to be kinda mediocre.