Director: Ilya Naishuller
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth, Hayley Bennett, Danila Kozlovsky
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. (Source: IMDB)
I knew before going into this film that I was either going to really like it, or really hate it. Well, just to prove I can be wrong, I didn’t hate it, but nor did I love it. I enjoyed it, but was a little unsure about many aspects of it. Let’s start with some good points though…
So it has been talked about a lot, but Hardcore Henry is the first entirely first-person feature film, and it certainly adds a very interesting dynamic to this very unique film. It is relentlessly violent and the action barely stops for a breather in it’s short 96 minute run time. The first-person style is a little jarring to start with, but having heard lots of horror stories about people feeling sick watching it, I was glad it didn’t have this effect on me once I had settled into it.
To those familiar with first-person shooter style video games, Hardcore Henry will be an absolute delight. It reminded me of a demented, hyper-violent first-person version of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, if it had been directed by Quentin Tarantino! In addition to the video game-esque filming technique, I liked that this film incorporated some other familiar genre tropes, such as characters having the ability to regenerate, and the use of multiple “avatars”. The world created is bizarre and chaotic, but it goes at it with such gusto that you can’t help but be sucked in.
With the audience placed permanently in the shoes of the mute “protagonist”, Henry, it is oddly compelling, particularly in the big action set pieces. I’m not entirely sure the first-person style works for a whole film (we’ll get to this later), but in some of the action sequences it is truly spectacular. It could be a real game-changer for the action movie genre, as long as it is used sparingly. My favourite action scene is towards the end when Henry has to take on a huge mob of bio-engineered soldiers, set to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen; easily my second favourite action scene set to this song, after of course the pool cue fight in Shaun of the Dead!
There’s not much to say with the cast, but Sharlto Copley who plays all the various guises of Jimmy is superb! For me, he was the driving force in this film, and it suffered somewhat when he was absent.
For all the relentless and excellent action, there is very little plot to speak of in this film. This became particularly evident late into the film when a “twist” was revealed. I won’t spoil this, but I will say it felt completely shoehorned in. Almost like the filmmakers had been having so much fun filming car chases, fight scenes, and endless shoot-outs, before getting too far into the film and realising that it should probably have a plot somewhere. Yes, the action is great, but if you can’t appreciate that, then it is very difficult to engage with this story otherwise.
Whilst the first-person style does very much place you in the middle of the film, the main character says absolutely nothing, and there are only a few characters who interact with him, which makes it really difficult to feel fully involved. You can appreciate the chaos and madness being quite literally thrown in your face, but there’s little else to really grip you.
One of my big concerns before watching this film was that it would feel like watching someone else playing a video game, and whilst it is a somewhat compelling game, it does start to wear about halfway through when you realise that this film really is just a series of big action set pieces strung together.
I saw this movie and you should too. I quite often feel like I’m backed into a corner with the rating system that I have come up with for this blog, but I’m absolutely sticking with it! Sometimes I’ll think a good film isn’t worth seeing at the cinema, and sometimes I’ll think a bad film is worth seeing. On the whole, I don’t think Hardcore Henry is a good film. I had a pretty good time watching some parts of it, but it is ultimately very empty, and left me with no desire to ever watch it again. That being said, I will recommend that you go and see this film. It is completely unique, and one which I feel needs to be experienced on the big screen even if it isn’t really that great. Maybe avoid if you suffer from motion sickness and don’t like gore though!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.