“Hardcore Henry” Movie Review


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     In an attempt to recycle familiar plot lines, but also add the facade of originality, filmmakers will often turn their films into more of a novelty act by utilizing a gimmick which may not have been attempted before.  One of the best and most recent examples of this was Levan Gabriadze’s 2014 film “Unfriended” in which the entire movie was staged from the perspective of an online chat between a few friends as the story unfolds around them into a supernatural horror thriller.  That use of a gimmick seems to be the direction writer/director Ilya Naishuller goes with his new film “Hardcore Henry”, a mostly nauseating and unwatchable action film set entirely from the point of view of the film’s title character.  Imagine the moments in 1987’s “Robocop” when Alex Murphy first wakes up as a cyborg and cross those with the sick fantasy of some pock marked, Dorito eating, Mountain Dew guzzling male teenager as he has just concluded a 24 hour brain rotting marathon playing the latest first person shooter and you would likely come up with “Hardcore Henry”, easily the worst film I’ve seen in years.

     There really is no story to speak of, and virtually nothing to spoil.  Naishuller’s film is an absolute mess from start to finish.  It’s as if he strapped a GoPro camera to the head of the best Parkour stuntman he could find and directed him to chase the other actors.  Fact is, if you take away the gimmick being employed here, all you really have left is a cheesy, second rate Russian mob story bracketed around endless and unnecessary action sequences.  The film begins almost immediately at the point where Henry wakes up for the first time, laying on an operating table in an ultra modern, almost science fiction like, medical facility.  He can’t speak since his voice modulator has apparently not been installed as of yet, but he can see and hear as Estelle (Haley Bennett), introduces herself as both his wife and the doctor who has overseen his reconstruction into a part man, but mostly machine experiment.

     Within minutes of his new arms and legs being attached, the facility is overrun by armed commandos, led by a villain so lame and over the top he reminded me of a cross between a Russian Mugatu from “Zoolander” and a young Magneto from the “X-Men” series.  When he begins lifting and tossing people around as if he’s a long lost Sith Master, Henry and Estelle manage to find a way to escape, but unfortunately the film doesn’t just end there, thus sparing us our valuable time.  The filmmakers find a way to drag this mess on for another 80 or so minutes, and are able to accomplish this by inserting a character named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) into the proceedings as a sort of “man of many faces” with his appearance consistently changing in order to have Henry believe he is undercover and attempting to help him.  There’s a story there, but I won’t get into it.  Frankly, it’s just not clever enough to even write about.

     We really are never told what the objective of these characters actually is, but I don’t think Naishuller cares enough to let us know either.  Henry is taken through a series of stunt scenes just to let the filmmakers gloat about how cool their movie is, and present all of it from the point of view of a deranged 16 year old.  There are endless beatings, beheadings, disembowelments, knifings, point blank grenade explosions, shootings,  and enough gratuitous violence to make Charles Manson squirm.  On top of that, there’s a sequence in the middle of the film where one of those aforementioned chases leads Henry and Jimmy into an underground Russian whorehouse, further contributing to the overly adolescent tone as dozens of women prance around topless while Henry drops more bad guys.  I have to wonder if the filmmakers sat around one day watching Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 film “Strange Days” and thought how great it would be if they could make an entire film mimicking the point of view scenes in that film.  If so, they must’ve also been under the influence of drugs to reach the conclusion that doing an entire film like this was a good idea.

     For those who might’ve felt a bit queasy after viewing “The Blair Witch Project”, “Hardcore Henry”, with its non stop shaking camera movement and the frenetic pace of which it is presented will certainly require a dose of Dramamine otherwise frequent trips to the commode will be the likely result.  Even those who may actually consider this to be entertainment will probably be confused by the lack of perspective from the other characters, as the film’s narrative is the ultimate in narrow mindedness and we’re treated to the point of view of someone who can’t even speak, which makes following this disaster even more of a strain.  Bottom line, if you actually meet someone in the coming days or weeks who brags about how “cool” or how “badass” this film is, particularly if that person happens to be a grown adult, I’d strongly advise you to “unfriend” them immediately.  GRADE: F-