Last week saw the release of Hardcore Henry, a Russian-American action flick whose claim-to-fame is that it’s entirely shot through the eyes of the main protagonist, Henry. The first-person perspective of the film is definitely intriguing and ambitious, yet the way the camera shakes and bobs whenever Henry makes even a slight movement can be nauseating to some.
After a couple minutes into the movie, it’s easy to adjust to the hectic nature of the camera, and those that do adjust are in for a treat. Hardcore Henry is a roller coaster of crazy, bloody, ridiculous action that takes you on an awe-inducing ride from start to finish.
The film begins in Russia, with an amnesiac Henry waking up on an operating table in a lab without a left arm or leg. A scientist comes to give him brand-spanking new robotic limbs and tells him that he’s basically half-robot after some freak accident that covered his body with injuries and rendered his voice obsolete.
Though this establishing scene may just be an excuse to explain how some random guy called Henry can kill the hundreds of trained soldiers he fights throughout the movie (as confirmed by director Ilya Naishuller), it’s a non-issue, as the point of this flick is to show gory, nonsensical and utterly enjoyable action.
Speaking of action, immediately after Henry becomes a cyber-man we are introduced to our main bad guy: a crazy-eyed psycho named Akan who has psychic powers (which is never explained in the film) and hundreds of disposable mercenaries under his command. Akan wants to capture Henry for some reason, and after a scuffle in the lab, the scientist gets kidnapped and Henry finds himself having to fight through mountains of baddies all throughout Russia in order to save her.
The plot of this film is simple and derivative of the thousands of action flicks that have been released over the years, though this is done to give center stage to the true reason why anybody would watch this film: the action.
From firing a mini-gun on the back of a motorcycle to squeezing a man’s head in two using only the dangly-cord bit that comes out from the back of eyeball, Hardcore Henry has no shortage of gratuitous violence. This movie truly earns its R rating, as Henry shoots, slices, tears and even rips his way through the bodies of nameless baddies.
Even if you’re all burnt out on watching action scenes in movies, the first-person perspective of the film gives new life to these scenes, from watching Henry shooting a gun to him fighting 30 guys at once. The lack of imagination in the plot of this movie can be forgiven by seeing how much creativity was put into the action scenes, which are abundant throughout the run-time of the movie.
If all of this carnage was happening in a film which took itself too seriously, this movie would be a serious bummer to watch. Gladly, there is no lack of comedy throughout Hardcore Henry. In the rare moments when Henry isn’t marinating his foes with Aunt Jeamima’s bullets n’ blood syrup, he’s listening to the banter of his friend ‘Jimmy,’ who is constantly being killed throughout the film and yet reappears sometimes minutes later to give assistance to Henry.
Jimmy’s appearances constantly change with each iteration, ranging from a cocaine-addicted psychopath to an old-timey 1940s-esque military man. Jimmy’s humorous interactions with a voiceless Henry (who ‘speaks’ to Jimmy using exaggerated hand motions) helps break up the constant action, giving the viewer a chance to breathe after watching the 100th henchman in a row shot to pieces by Henry.
Hardcore Henry is not a film for everyone. Those looking for an engaging plot, deep characters or even a story that makes sense won’t find anything of interest here. However, those who want to watch an awesome, chaotic blast unfold on the big screen in the style of an FPS video game will get exactly what they’re looking for. At a run-time of one hour and 30 minutes that keeps the movie from feeling either too short or too long, Hardcore Henry is an excellent bout of fun that is well worth your money.