Movie Review: Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry offers mindless violent fun, but without an engaging story and a discernible character its innovative camerawork quickly becomes a repetitive live simulation of a derivative first person shooter.

You remember nothing. Mainly because you’ve just been brought back from the dead by your wife (Haley Bennett). She tells you that your name is Henry. Five minutes later, you are being shot at, your wife has been kidnapped, and you should probably go get her back. Who’s got her? His name’s Akan (Danila Kozlovsky); he’s a powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries, and a plan for world domination. You’re also in an unfamiliar city of Moscow, and everyone wants you dead. Everyone except for a mysterious British fellow called Jimmy (Sharlto Copley). He may be on your side, but you aren’t sure. If you can survive the insanity, and solve the mystery, you might just discover your purpose and the truth behind your identity.

While the first person point of view has been explored in found footage formats, it hasn’t been used yet in action films until now. If you’ve wondered what a first person shooter would look like as a movie, search no further.

Hardcore Henry delivers exactly what it teases in its trailer – a live adaptation of a first person shooter with all the game design tropes. There’s a quest, a mysterious guide, a hot chick, and a powerful villain out for world domination with pawns in matching uniforms. You get the fade to black, side quests, and exposition breaks. Combining Jackie Chan’s wall climbing, Daniel Craig’s sprinting parkour, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gun blazing trail, Jason Statham’s Crank style power-ups and heaps of splatter violence, you get what you want if that’s what you came for.

The movie was shot using head-mounted Go Pros, which result to interesting spatial navigation. In one action sequence, Henry chases after a guy, climbing stairs, crossing beams, and running through the streets. Just like a real foot chase, there are moments when Henry gets close but the guy manages to sprint ahead just enough to be out of reach.

The technical wizardry here deserves praise and the action that comes with it (there’s already a Zombie movie copying it), but this trick losses its novelty very fast.

Hardcore Henry is already at a disadvantage right off the bat. Without the interactive component that comes with a game, the derivative writing becomes all the more obvious. The summary of this movie could be found in plenty of game descriptions.

Sharlto Copley is great as always and his dance number (far more creative than Micheal C. Hall’s in the Game) revealing his singing capabilities is a treat. But they’re too few bright spots on a bloody corpse strewn canvas.

With a mute avatar and nothing at stake, the action becomes a blur of sequences that teeters between a feature length Go Pro ad and a dizzying live simulation of a simulation. There’s nothing to connect with or invest in as Henry is given no agency whatsoever, pushed around by plot developments solely revolving around increasing levels of mayhem. As expected, the boss battle is on the rooftop where Henry has to fight men in white jump suits before he can get near the Russian Darth Vader.

Hardcore Henry ends like typical shoot’em up games do. Depending on your tolerance level, it could be a mind trip or an endurance test. If you’re just looking for a distraction, character and story be damned, then this movie is for you. But if that’s the case, then why don’t you just play a real videogame instead of watching a replicate of it?

My Rating: 4/10

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I have long since decided that I will not be checking this drivel out. Hey, I may have mentioned this before-if so please forgive me-but you are a damn good writer, Arline. Not everyone who does what we do is. Keep up the compelling work…I’ll keep readin’!

    1. Arline says:

      Wow, thanks! I really appreciate that coming from a fellow blogger. It would have been a 3 if it weren’t for Sharlto.

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