Action Adventure

'Hardcore Henry' Film Review: A kinetic, bloody homage to first-person shooters and '80s sci-fi

April 8, 2016Ben MK

Are you the type of person who gets motion sickness on roller coasters? Did watching Cloverfield make you queasy? Did you despise the shaky-cam action sequences in The Bourne Identity? If you answered "yes" to any or all of the above questions, then Hardcore Henry may not be your cup of tea.

A live-action first-person shooter like you've never seen before, Hardcore Henry places viewers in the boots of its titular protagonist, a man who is now more machine than flesh and blood. Retrofitted with cybernetic limbs and a battery pack to replace his once-beating heart, Henry awakens to find his memory erased and himself part of an experiment to create an army of superhuman soldiers. The good news: the experiment was a success. The bad news: a megalomaniacal, albino telepath named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) wants to use said army to take over the world.

Now it's up to Henry to stop Akan and his over-the-top plans for world domination, if not for the good of mankind, then at least to rescue his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett), whom Akan has kidnapped seemingly just to piss Henry off. Luckily, Henry will have a little help from the mysterious Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), a man who has his own reasons for wanting to see Akan suffer, and who also has a knack for being virtually unkillable, appearing to Henry over and over again in different disguises, even though he's already been shot, set afire and repeatedly murdered.

Needless to say, the result is one of the most flat-out insane cinematic experiences you may ever have; and it's one that maintains its breakneck pace almost from start to finish, save for its somewhat chill main titles and an opening sequence reminiscent of video game tutorials. From there, however, the movie barrels ahead like a speed-run through the latest Call of Duty, as Henry racks up enemy kill after enemy kill, shooting, stabbing and blowing up everyone and everything in his path, whether it's a van, a helicopter or an apartment building full of bad guys.

It's true: aside from its frenetic action and gnarly stunts, Hardcore Henry doesn't have a lot going for it, plot-wise. However, that's not to say the film doesn't benefit from some cleverly-scripted sequences. Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Ilya Naishuller, the movie perfectly captures the tone of '80s sci-fi, most notably the satirical tone of Robocop. At the same time, it's also a pretty damn funny movie in its own right, with its fair share of visual gags and a scenery-chewing performance from Copley, who never misses an opportunity to ham it up.

Then, of course, there's the film's wall-to-wall ultra-violence. Shot primarily with GoPro cameras, Hardcore Henry has a definite low-budget feel about it. That being said, there is beauty to be found in the chaotic orgy of blood and carnage that fills virtually every frame, whether our hero is ripping out his opponent's heart or battling with an army of killer cyborgs, Burly Brawl style. For sure, this is an experience that's not for the squeamish; but if you can stomach the gore and the disorienting visuals, Hardcore Henry is pure popcorn fun for video game addicts.

Hardcore Henry releases April 8th, 2016 from VVS Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for non-stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 36 Mins.

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