By Chris Campo
Hardcore Henry is a "first person" action film, if you're not into video games, first person is where the camera is fixed to a character's point of view. Yes, like a video game. So this "first person" film has been getting a lot of buzz lately and I have to admit, I was pretty intrigued by the concept. It's something we haven't seen on the big screen yet, so I give the film major props because they absolutely go for it. It's a film unlike anything I've ever seen before, if you can even call this thing a film. It's an odd experience and I am disappointed to say this experience, as unique as it is, isn't much fun at all.
Hardcore Henry follows, you guessed it, Henry. Henry is built from the ground up to be some kind of super soldier, he has no memory, no ability to speak, an artificial arm and leg and a newly found ability to kick the ass of literally any living thing he comes across. When his supposed wife (Haley Bennett) is captured by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), the man who made Henry "Hardcore", he enlists the help of Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) to rescue her and find out the truth about himself. I am surprised at how many sentences I was able to write about this film's plot, as it didn't seem like there was even a plot when I was watching it.
This film was obviously made to show a guy mow down hundreds of people from a first person perspective, as the little plot they setup is laughably mindless. First, to engage the audience in a character we need to know him, not be him. They make close to no effort explaining who Henry is, or why he is in this predicament. Sharlto Copley's character is the only character we ever learn about, and his character's story is the closest thing to actual character development in the whole thing. The villain of the film is literally the most un-interesting bad guy in any film I have seen in a long time. He can move stuff with his mind and he wants to create an army, for some reason. I also have literally no idea what the bad guys want with Henry. Not one scene in this film makes any sense, making this more of an action showcase than an actual movie.
Speaking of the action in this film, where do I begin. When the first real action scene started, I got extremely worried. I didn't think I could sit through a whole 90 minutes of it. It was shaky, incomprehensible, loud, and obnoxious, Thankfully, not all the action scenes are like this. There are two scenes I can honestly say impressed the hell out of me. One being a motorcycle chase that makes it's way into a tank chase and finally ends with a chase scene on a helicopter, This was about half way through the film and when it happened, I was a little more excited for what was to happen after that. The second action scene I enjoyed was a shootout in the final act that emphasizes big guns and grenades. It also features a sequence where Henry is using a sniper rifle and it's the more impressive uses of the first person angle. This scene had somewhat competent camera work and wasn't as frantic as the rest of the film, like the over bloated and tedious final fight. It literally seemed like it was never going to end.
I love violence just as much as the next guy, but here it just seems excessive. Nearly every human on screen we ever see in the film gets absolutely decimated and the gore is just too much. We see heads blown up, cut off, sliced in half, hearts ripped out, entrails leaving the stomach, corpses exploding into paint on the walls and even more disgusting fatalities, and it just got to be too much. It's when Henry pulls a man's hand in half where I think to myself, this is gross and a little too far, and I love bloody action and I love gore, but this put the worst taste imaginable in my mouth. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad if there was any down time in this film, but there is not. It's just 90 full on minutes of brutal killing. The first person view doesn't help, as all of it is in full frame, as well.
To make it seem more appealing, this film has a healthy dose of humor, and to my surprise, I found myself laughing at many of the jokes. There's a scene where Henry tried to ride a horse and it was so utterly stupid, but it made me laugh pretty damn hard. There's a standout dance number in the film as well, it's actually quite clever and made me laugh, but also feel uncomfortable at the same time. I have to praise Sharlto Copley and his incredible comedic performance, he is the film's brightest bright spot and whenever he is onscreen, I laughed. Not all the humor works, but I like that it was there. Along with laughing with the film, there are many times I laughed at the film. whether it's at the god awful dialogue or the laughably bad portrayal of women. Literally every on-screen female is a hooker or a straight up bitch.
Here's the kicker. Here is what I truly hated about this film. It's structured almost exactly like a video game. There's a scene that feels like a mission every game has that has you using a mounted mini-gun, there's scene that feels like a stealth mission in a video game, there's the mission where you protect something from damage while in one room and there's the final boss that has dozens of pawns fighting for him. It just feels so desperate to get the feel of a video game down that it never feels like you're watching a movie. It feels like you're watching someone else play a video game, and that person playing doesn't let you try. I play video games, I am probably the core demographic for this film, and even I hated it.
Hardcore Henry may be unlike any other movie to date, but that means absolutely nothing if it's not a good film. Some action is fun and some humor hits, but it never ascends from a gimmicky attempt to connect with a young, gaming world. Add the nauseating camerawork, excessive gore and inept story telling, you get the shoes of Hardcore Henry, which you really don't ever want to walk in.
1 1/2 Stars