Some films take bold risks, changing the ways we think about cinema while providing a timeless classic that will be studied for decades to come.
“Hardcore Henry” is not one of those films.
The film, directed by Ilya Naishuller, follows the story of Henry, who wakes up to learn that he has nearly died in an accident and has been rebuilt as a cyborg by his wife, Estelle (played by Haley Bennett). Just as he awakens, a warmonger named Akan (played by Danila Kozlovsky) breaks into the facility he’s in and kidnaps his wife. On his mission to get her back he is introduced to Jimmy (played by Sharlto Copley), a skilled scientist/tactician who seems to have a multitude of personalities.
If that synopsis was confusing then you hit the nail on the head: “Hardcore Henry” makes absolutely no sense. While Henry’s motivation is somewhat clear, the villain Akan’s motivation is incredibly vague. You never really learn what he wants from Henry.
The movie’s other massive issue is how it hits you over the head with exposition, whether that be via Henry’s companions literally explaining everything happening in the movie or Henry’s phone acting like the mini-map in a first-person shooter game. In addition, this whole movie is filmed in first person. Even with a steely stomach like mine, I felt sick at times. The friend I went with felt even worse. The everyday moviegoer should stay away from “Hardcore Henry.”
What this movie succeeds is action. “Hardcore Henry” is bloody, relentless and violent. It uses its first-person film style to accomplish action sequences no other movie has ever done. Most of the sequences were filmed with practical effects, which were absolutely incredible.
The other stand out to this film is the character of Jimmy, played by Sharlto Copley. Jimmy is raw and unpredictable and at times hilarious. I found myself more interested in his character, his backstory and trying to figure out what he will do next, than in the actual plot of the movie.
“Hardcore Henry” is not a movie I would recommend anyone other than a hardcore action movie fan. If you are curious about it, I would recommend you wait until it goes on DVD to watch it instead of going to the theaters. While its action sequences are interesting and amazing, it still falls flat a lot. I hope “Hardcore Henry” is both the first and last first-person action films we get to see.