Review: Hardcore Henry – First-person snoozer

Hardcore HenryDo you like to watch people playing video games? I’m good for about four-to-five minutes of it before I start to lose interest; and there is no way I have the patience to observe ninety-minutes of game-play, especially when there is no chance in Hades of getting a turn at the controls myself.

Therein lies the main problem with the premise/gimmick behind the new film, Hardcore Henry, a first-person snoozer that, despite plenty of action, is like watching a stranger play some mediocre Russian video game with nice graphics but a hackneyed plot.

A full-feature first-person perspective film that simulates the popular video game genre was bound to happen eventually (I’m actually surprised that it’s taken this long), and while this Russian/American movie has its moments, like many foreign action films it is hampered by a tonal quality that’s geared toward an uneducated third-world audience.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se – Grodd knows I’ve enjoyed hundreds of hours in dark, overseas grindhouse theatres watching junk like this – but Henry simply had very little entertainment value for me. Again, it was probably just too much like watching (and not playing) a video game.

What you might call the plot for Hardcore Henry has the hero waking up in some sort of cybernetic laboratory where his alluring wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), is fitting him with bionic arms and legs just as the facility is attacked by the evil agents of Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a mutant baddie with the ability to psychically move things, like a Russian cross between Uri Geller and Marvel Girl.

Hardcore HenryEstelle is captured by Akan and Henry spends the movie running to save her, periodically directed and assisted by Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who dies and reappears in a different guise repeatedly – until it actually becomes rather humorous (intentional or otherwise.) Also look for a nonsensical cameo by Tim Roth.

The film is written and directed first time feature filmmaker Ilya Naishuller and he obviously spent more time on the latter task. The movie is shot almost entirely on a GoPro camera, which should spark the filmmaking dreams of skateboarders and wannabe stuntmen across the globe.

And there are plenty of parkour style stunts throughout the film which are pretty impressive, so if you dig athletes jumping, climbing and swinging in all sorts of urban settings…well, that’s going to be a plus for you. If blood & gore is your bag, then you’ll be happy with that as well.

A few moments of dark humor are all that saves Hardcore Henry from being a total catastrophe. My biggest issue with the film is that it’s all just too much of the first-person gimmick and video-game violence – overkill, if you will. When the pedal-to-the-metal action still puts you asleep…there’s something wrong with that picture. Grade: 3.5/10

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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