A first-person action film from the eyes of Henry, who’s resurrected from death with no memory. He must discover his identity and save his wife from a warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.
Many of you probably know that I have an extreme aversion to the handheld camera gimmick that is utilized by many movies. While it has been in use for a very long time, it really came to prominence in 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” and while I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, the shaky camerawork actually added to the overall movie-going experience, allowing the audience to become invested in the film’s characters and story arcs, taking on their point of view, something I feel has not been successfully replicated, until now. For those who don’t know, the majority of “Hardcore Henry” was shot on a GoPro. What exactly is a GoPro? It is a small and compact HD-quality camera, it is also waterproof, shockproof, and can pretty much survive any harsh environment. People typically attach them to their helmets so that you can see everything from their perspective and that is how “Hardcore Henry” is shot, all the way through. Many people at the press screening I attended complained afterwards about feeling nauseated and dizzy so if jarring, fast-paced rapid camera movements, accompanied by non-stop action, and a loud rock score for 96 minutes is not your thing, then you might want to pass on this one. Otherwise, sit back and be prepared to be blown away.
There is no room in this film for character development and story exposition, the two most important elements for any movie and that’s okay, we don’t need it. We are dropped into the middle of the story and it is non-stop from beginning to end. The entire film is told from Henry’s perspective so while we can see his arms, hands, legs, and torso, like they were our own, we never actually see his face. We are introduced to beautiful Estelle (Haley Bennett), a scientist who claims to be Henry’s wife. Henry has just woken up and has no memory and is missing several body parts but with scientific resources, they are replaced with titanium, bionic limbs, making him stronger and pretty much indestructible. Estelle informs him that he cannot speak and just as they are about to install a voice recorder inside of him, alarms go off and our hero’s antagonist, Russian bad guy Slick Dmitry (Andrei Dementiev), makes his first appearance. After killing some of Estelle’s co-workers, Henry manages to grab her and they escape in a pod, where we realize that the entire facility is actually airborne.
Once on the ground, Henry gets separated from Estelle but is rescued by a shady-looking character called Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who informs him that if he wants to keep living, he must kill a bad guy and rip out his heart because like Henry, he has been reconstructed and the power cell that gives him life, is located directly below his heart. After completing the quest, both Henry and Jimmy team up together to face Dmitry, so that Henry can save Estelle and Jimmy can settle a long-standing score.
“Hardcore Henry” is absolutely crazy. I felt like I was playing a first-person action video game and the fact that it was able to attract the likes of Sharlto Copley and Tim Roth, is even crazier. This film is all about technical exposition and it is a great testament to the stunt people involved because according to the movie’s star, Sharlto Copley, “the total injuries of the cast and crew were only 5 stitches and 1 chipped tooth.” For an action movie that has so many death-defying stunts, explosions, chases, and car crashes, that is impressive. The film was also entirely shot on location in Russia and while some of the scenes took place in Moscow, some were filmed in the countryside that showed a beautiful and majestic landscape that I was not expecting to see.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the entire movie, is the character of Jimmy. When we first meet him, he is killed off pretty quickly, much to the dismay and shock of most theater goers but then he resurfaces a short while later, complete with different attire and regional accent, only to be promptly dispatched again, in countless, gruesome ways, including but not limited to, bloody headshots, being skewered, flame-throwered, and multiple dismemberments due to hand-grenade explosions. Explaining all of this is one of the film’s many highlights and it gives Sharlto Copley a great opportunity to showcase a great many impersonations. Because there is so much happening onscreen all the time, I will have to see it again, just to pick up the small in-between moments I’m sure I missed the first time. “Hardcore Henry” is brutal, unflinching in its violence, and unforgiving, and it does not apologize for being assembled that way. This is a very specialized taste that people will either love or hate but one thing is for certain, you’re not going to know unless you see it.
In theaters April 8th
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