Into sci-fi? Video games? Then this disorienting, but fun, video game action is for you. If not? Avoid Hardcore Henry like the freaking plague.
The first-person action film is from the POV of Henry, who’s resurrected from death with no memory. He must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.
Hardcore Henry is a truly unique film. Its first-person perspective does give us a glimpse into what the future of movie making could be, as this film was shot using mostly GoPros and yet it still looks pretty good. This kind of film wasn’t even possible five years ago, and here we are watching it in a feature-length film. I have to commend Ilya Naishuller and company for being willing to wade into uncharted waters on this. And, on top of that, the lore of this world is actually somewhat interesting! The world created by Naishuller, who also wrote the film, was legitimately interesting to me. The action was fun, though disorienting, and the novelty of the perspective was enough to keep me engaged for the brisk 96-minute film. All that said, though, this film’s story is an absolute mess the moment you turn your brain on and try to think about it.
I greatly enjoyed trying to figure out how this film was shot. There are moments that had me completely baffled from a logistical perspective. And, for the most part, the action was engaging and fun. I also have to give props to Sharlto Copley. As much as this guy is a notorious pain to work with (seriously, watch some of the featurettes from The A-Team) he is a damn good actor, and it shows here. Yes he is screen-hogging, but when you are actually the only one onscreen, I guess it’s OK.
The overall world is interesting . . . until they start to explain things. When the curtain is finally pulled on Copley’s character, I was even more confused than before. And the villain had literally no motivation for being bad at all. He was just evil for the sake of being evil. And Tim Roth? What is this guy’s purpose? I mean, talk about the easiest paycheck of your career—he has about three lines and that’s it. And if I hadn’t looked at IMDB I would have had no idea how he was correlated to the rest of the story. Haley Bennett is also treated like dirt in this film, as she is little more than a damsel in distress the entire time. And what’s worse is the fact that her character is actually set up to be kind of badass but the filmmakers just decided to not go down that route. What a wasted opportunity.
All that said, I still enjoyed myself watching this film, but I recognize it has some serious limits. And I think a large part of why I enjoyed it is because I like video games. This film is definitely destined for cult status.
While it has a very unique style and was fun to watch, Hardcore Henry ultimately goes soft under a weak and underwhelming story.