“Hardcore Henry,” is a first-person action film that is not for the faint of heart and is now in theaters. (Versus Pictures 2016)
It’s hard to criticize a movie for wanting to do something original. However, it’s even harder to give it a pass when it’s unique style makes it borderline unwatchable.
“Hardcore Henry,” directed by Ilya Naishuller, is a beserk, hyperactive action film that takes place entirely in the first person. The audience views the movie through the eyes of mute super-soldier named Henry who takes the phrase “actions speak louder than words” to heart by killing enough people to populate a small nation.
On his path of mayhem, he teams up with a wacky, equally violent character named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) to stop a generic villain (Danila Kozlovsky) from creating more super-soldiers and predictably taking over the world.
The movie doesn’t seem to be too concerned with it’s plot however, but is instead directs it’s efforts towards being a brutal, full throttle 96 minute action scene. And for a good portion of it’s runtime, it’s pretty damn fun. Yet at some point near the middle, the adrenaline wears off and the headache kick in.
With it’s first person viewpoint and A.D.H.D. writing, “Hardcore Henry” undoubtedly draws heavy inspiration from video games, perhaps a little too much. After endless scenes of punching, shooting, stabbing, exploding, decapitating, incinerating and pulverizing, the feeling sets in that you’re no longer watching a movie, but instead watching your friend play a video game on the big screen. To complete the video game experience, it has a antagonist so corny and over-the-top that he makes bad guys in Saturday morning cartoons seem tame and collected.
Action movies have become very generic and formulaic over the years, so a film that brings something new to the table deserves to be noticed. But while the concept of a complete first-person style is intriguing and new to mainstream movies, the constant bobbing and shaking of the camera is very likely to trigger nausea among movie goers. The fiesta of blood and gore won’t help the situation either.
The video game atmosphere further shortens the film by not allowing it any downtime to develop characters or let the audience breathe. By doing this they avoided the dreaded case of boredom, but they overcompensated by making every aspect so extreme that it detracts from important elements such as connecting to the audience.
Despite it’s glaring flaws however, “Hardcore Henry” is so charismatic and unapologetically aggressive that it’s charm did peek through at times. Most of these instances centered around Sharlto Copely’s on-screen lunacy. He seemed completely immersed in every goofy line he delivered and it’s tough to imagine he didn’t have a blast in the role.
This film is not for those who can’t handle extreme violence, have easily triggered nausea or are looking for a structurally complete movie. But if you in the select minority that these warnings don’t apply to, this film could be right up your alley.