The opening sequence starts the blood racing, as slow motion knives pierce through a neck and bats smash against the side of a persons face. This feels like Hardcore's way of warning the members of the audience about their upcoming experience, and that any squeamish individuals should kindly exit the theater. Soon after, we are lying on our backs on a surgical table looking up at Estelle (Haley Bennett), our creator and love interest. She explains that his name is Henry and he is a super soldier with enough powers to take on an army. In the middle of the limbs being attached and vocal ability prepped, the evil Akin (Danila Kozlovsky) blows through a wall, taking out two doctors who helped put Henry together. Henry narrowly escapes with Estelle, as the two drop from a station thousands of feet in the sky, like a sky dive caught on camera, we emphatically land on the ground. And our wild ride has just begun...
In terms of story, I will call Hardcore Henry what it is, a video game of the highest level of action. And that should not put an image in your head that it compares to a night on the couch playing Call of Duty. Instead of the typical CGI explosions and green screen work you see in superhero movies, this is choreographed action, as Henry chases bad guys down the street, fights them hand to hand, jumps over cars, scales down tall buildings, and blows a van up with a grenade. There is a magic of movies going on, but I can't forget that the entire time there is a guy performing these acts with a camera strapped to his head.
Henry rages through the numerous amounts of henchman that Akin sends at him, he is helped along the way by Sharlto Coppley (District 9), whose performance resembles a bit of Peter Sellars. He is named “Jimmy” and there is more than just one of him. He appears as a WWI solider, a homeless person, a bad-ass agent, and an Easy Rider hippie on a motorcycle, each of them arriving in more amusing ways than the last.
I won't pretend that Hardcore isn’t free of problems. The gimmick will run it's course for some, the experience will cause headaches or motion sickness to others, and every woman portrayed is a cruel vixen in a scene where Henry visits a Russian brothel. That's not exactly helping the woman's movement. It should not earn too much thought, as this is a fast-paced, 96 minute race, and an insane action flick that does not deserve that much analysis. It either works for you or it doesn’t.
I had a blast watching Hardcore Henry. I saw it at SXSW, which most likely added to the experience of seeing the action with a late-nite, raucous crowd. I do hope this is a one-time only use of the GoPro-First person movie style. If something like this becomes successful it becomes Paranormal Activity all over again. Never mind that. Hardcore Henry is a pulse-pounding, action-packed, rollercoaster ride. That's the way you describe a movie like this. It's Hardcore.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: HARDCORE HENRY
STARRING: SHARLTO COPPLEY; HALEY BENNETT; DANILA KOZLOVSKY
DIRECTED BY: ILYA NAISHULLER
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Hardcore Henry is in your face. Literally. If any movie was ever appropriate to use the cliched phrases such as “action packed” and “a pure adrenaline rush”, this is the movie to use them, because it is all of those things and more. Director Ilya Naishuller has brought his passion project to life on the big screen, using GoPro cameras and a film shot entirely from a first person point of view. What may sound like an invitation to motion sickness or an experience that feels like watching a video game, is surprisingly a brisk, entertaining adventure, and well crafted within it's visual style.