THE STORY – A man wakes up in a Moscow laboratory to learn that he’s been brought back from the dead as a half-human, half-robotic hybrid. With no memory of his former life, a woman who claims to be his wife tells him that his name is Henry. Before she can activate his voice, armed thugs storm in and kidnap her. As Henry starts to understand his new abilities, he embarks on a bloody rampage through the city to save his spouse from a psychopath (Danila Kozlovsky) who plans to destroy the world.
THE CAST – Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Andrei Dementiev, Dasha Charusha, Svetlana Ustinova & Tim Roth
THE TEAM – Ilya Naishuller (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 96 Minutes
By Matt N.
“Hardcore Henry” may just be the best video game of the year…if it were a game to begin with. What it really is, is the most divisive film of the year. It’s a one trick pony that relishes in ripping off modern day action video games and translating all of its bloody chaos to the big screen. It’s a disorienting, fast-paced, wild, and fun ride, so long as you don’t try to think about it too much. The film’s greatest asset (Non-stop gory action shot in first person point of view) also works against it and only helps to fuel the fire of those who think that video games are nothing more than a bloody exercise in desensitizing violence for society.
In a modern futuristic Moscow, Henry (Played by you, the audience member) awakens in a lab floating above the clouds to see that two of his limbs are missing. His wife Estelle (Haley Bennet), replaces his missing limbs by providing him with mechanical ones and a few other biological enhancements, which will make him into a super-cyborg. Henry does not have the ability to speak just yet and is suffering from memory loss upon awakening. However, the rebuilding process is interrupted by a crazy telekinetic criminal named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) who wants Henry’s technology to build his own superhuman cyborg army. After escaping from the lab above, Henry now embarks on a mission with limited resources other than his new lethal self and the aid of his friend Jimmy (Sharlto Copley).
“Hardcore Henry” is nuts. Absolutely nuts. The film begins with a James Bond-inspired title sequence that showcases extreme closeups of computer generated violence in slow motion, set to “Let Me Down Easy” from English rock band, The Stranglers. If this glorification of violence isn’t your cup of tea, then step aside and let the teenage boys have their day, for this film is truly for them. “Hardcore Henry” is that video game they all love to play at home, which has come alive on the big screen. The results are at times darkly comic, over the top in its depiction of gore and carnage, and dizzying due to all of the handheld camera work. While the effect may appear “cool” to some, it starts to wear off after awhile if you’ve ever experienced one or two first person shooter games yourself. What would have really made this experience once in a lifetime would’ve been if director Ilya Naishuller could’ve shot the action scenes in one simulated take like 2014’s “Birdman.” At least then, it would’ve borne more resemblance to a first person shooter which doesn’t have edits during the action scenes and where you the player, are the one who is driving the action.
“Hardcore Henry” will either be an adrenaline filled experience that will excite you to no end, or it will leave you feeling numb and bewildered by its many plot inconsistencies and over the top antics. For example, although Sharlto Copley looks to be having a blast playing the clever Jimmy, he always seems to show up to save Henry’s behind at the most convenient of times which defies logic. And Danila Kozlovsky plays Akan less as a menacing memorable villain and instead as an outlandish cartoon character, whose eccentric behavior teeters on being embarrassingly comical on more than a few occasions. And forget about getting any kind of character development out of the protagonist Henry. “You” are meant to be Henry, which makes me curious as to how women will experience a film such as this where they are forced to put themselves in the shoes of a person of the opposite sex.
So while “Hardcore Henry” will give action junkies something to cheer for (Especially the Rated M for Mature video game crowd), it will leave hardcore cinephiles shaking their heads. This could’ve been a much better film if Naishuller focused more on making it just that instead of a blatant rip off of cut scenes from a video game. I land somewhere in the middle here where I cannot deny that as a film, “Hardcore Henry” certainly has its flaws. But as an action film with the kind of fight scenes and gore that would make Quentin Tarantino proud, it was one hell of a fun ride. But now that the video game is over, and as the credits roll, I’m left wondering “Will I really ever want to play that again?”
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The over the top violence can be quite a good bit of fun. Sharlto Copley is an absolute riot.
THE BAD – Is it a movie or a video game?
THE FINAL SCORE – 5/10