Hardcore Henry Review
An action movie where the audience sees the entire story play out in front of the heroes eyes. Hey, let's be honest, its not something we see everyday. Its certainly never been done on the scale presented in "Hardcore Henry." I was curious about a lot of things before walking into the theater yesterday. The main thing I was curious about was how could the filmmakers make the audience care about a movie that literally looks and feels like somebody playing a video game? Its happened in movies before, movies that never were told from the point-of-view of the main character. Too many times in the past, many movies have felt like a character getting to various checkpoints and defeating enemies, and the enemies get worse and more powerful as the movie moves forward. I love playing video games, but I am not fond of watching people play for hours on end. That gets boring after a while, so how could a movie told from the point-of-view of the hero counter that feeling?
Honestly, whether it was intentional or not, "Hardcore Henry" really does feel like a video game in lots of aspects. There is a moment at the end of the movie when our hero is about to have one last showdown with the Big Bad and his goons, and after a massive explosion, a first aide kit conveniently lands next to our hero. I am sure the idea of a video game was on director Ilya Naishuller's mind as he made this movie. I am sure some people will dismiss the movie as being too gamey. But for me, I enjoyed "Hardcore Henry." What makes the movie good is the wonderful cast of characters, who make their screen time count. Also, the sense of realism that plagues itself over the many action scenes throughout the film. The action is close, and feels urgent, feels real, and will most likely make you cringe. This isn't a bunch of digital avatars fighting each other, these are actors and that sense of realism helped the movie. It may lean a little too heavily on the mechanics of a video game, but it was still a slick and fun ride all the way through.
We see the entire movie through the eyes of Henry. Henry was not played by one actor. Actually, what blew my mind was that ten different actors and stuntmen played Henry. It never once feels like more than one person is playing Henry at the time. Even the films director and actor Andrei Dementiev (who plays Slick Dmitry later in the movie) play Henry at one point. Henry is woken up at the beginning of the movie, missing a leg and an arm. He can't speak and he has no memories of how he got here. All he knows is that a scientist is putting a robotic leg and arm on him. He has charger keeping him alive and that the scientist is his wife (Haley Bennett). Soon, a group of armed men led by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) wants the state-of-the-art technology keeping Henry alive, and he will kidnap Henry's wife in order to do it. Akan has powerful telekinetic powers and he easily bests Henry in a fight. Soon, Henry finds himself bruised and bloodied and his wife is kidnapped.
Then, Jimmy appears. Jimmy is played by Sharlto Copley and at first you won't get his character. Jimmy has several appearances in the movie, no two alike. He has several different personalities in the movie too. Even though we see Jimmy die several times in the movie, he somehow comes back. But don't fret, there is an explanation to why Jimmy keeps coming back. "Hardcore Henry" isn't a movie that invents concepts and themes as it goes along, its a full fledged action picture. Jimmy has his own reasons for being against Akan and he plans to help Henry any way he can. Sharlto Copley has been putting together an impressive filmography since 2009, and he just starting to showcase just how powerful a performer he truly is.
Akan is a magnificent creep of a villain, and I give Danila Kozlovsky huge credit for bringing Akan to a slimy life. He constantly taunts Henry. He constantly parades Henry's wife in front of him, every chance he gets, violating her with glee. I am a little disappointed that we never get an explanation for why Akan has telekinesis. But there is no doubt that he is a powerful adversary in this movie, and he is brought to great life by Danila Kozlovsky. I didn't know the name at all before I saw this, and now I hope to see more of him in the future.
There is a brief appearance by Tim Roth that is minimal but effective. The actors all do very good work. They make this matter. I am curious to see what others make of the storytelling itself. Because it does feel in the vein of watching somebody play a video game. Those who get woozy from the shaky cam may want to be wary of this one. But, if found footage movies are so popular, I don't see how one couldn't like "Hardcore Henry." The characters are much more realized that your average found footage stock. Its also a much better ride.
"Hardcore Henry" relies heavily on a particular gimmick. How well you respond to that gimmick will decide whether or not you like this movie or not. It certainly worked for me, even though I think they could have streamlined it a little bit better. I don't think this will be a movie that reinvents the action genre. However, its certainly something that should come up in conversation on the genre in the future.
FINAL GRADE: B+