Review: Hardcore Henry

Hardcore_Henry Hardcore Henry is not a smart movie. It IS a unique movie-going experience that merges modern GoPro cinematography with the best of the worst tropes in video games, and it entertains from start to finish. This is not the movie to see if you care about things like cohesive plot or engaging characters, but if you want to see a man fight a tank with a sword, baby this one’s for you.

Here’s what you need to know: you are Henry. Shot entirely in first-person, the movie puts the viewer behind the eyeballs of a man who dies and wakes up in a lab missing a few key body parts. In true video game form, your wife, who is also your doctor, shows up and spouts lines of exposition while attaching your limbs, checking your settings, saving your Y-axis preference, and so on. Before she has time to explain more than “Hey, I’m your wife and you’re a cyborg now,” the telekinetic final boss shows up and kicks your ass with his mind. You both manage to distract him and escape, but your wife is captured shortly thereafter and you spend the next 90 minutes trying to get her back.

Joining you in your mission is Jimmy, a stranger who comes to your rescue early on and accompanies you through the set pieces. He also has a strange habit of dying and respawning as completely different versions of himself. Sharlto Copley’s performance as Jimmy is fantastic. He’s clearly having a great time bopping around and changing his attitudes and accents at a moment’s notice, going down in a haze of blood or fire only to pop up alive and completely different five minutes later. He’s the key to explaining the wafer-thin plot and keeping you on point throughout the various “missions.”

From a highway chase scene to a sniper mission to a rooftop battle royale, Henry works his way to the boss fight experiencing the best video game scenarios director Ilya Naishuller can throw at him. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but one scene directly inspired by Red Dead Redemption is hilariously spot-on. Halo, COD, and more all inspire various beats in the film and it’s great fun recognizing the homages.

But why does the bad guy have mind powers? What happened to Henry before you woke up in the lab? Who cares! You may not know what the hell it was all about, but you will have had fun watching it. By the time the credits roll you will have seen more bodies shot, eviscerated, exploded and burned than the average session of Call Of Duty, and it’s hysterically entertaining watching it all happen. I laughed out loud a dozen times at the creative insanity of what was happening on screen.  

I will warn you, though, that this is not a movie for those who get motion sickness. At times, the shaky-cam aspect of the footage makes it a little tough to watch and follow all the action. I didn’t have any issue with it but I can see where others might. I think the FPS view does a great job throughout making you feel like you’re in the action. It’s also not a movie for the squeamish. The opening credits alone feature slow-motion violence on a level usually reserved for torture porn films. Definitely leave the kids at home for this one.

Despite a few scenes that fall flat, Hardcore Henry is a hell of a ride. Head to the theater, turn off your brain, and enjoy one of the most fun action movies I’ve seen in years. And whatever you do, don’t sit it the front row.

[easyreview title= "Review of Hardcore Henry" cat1title="Jack's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]

Review: Elysium

Elysium-full-movie-download Director Neil Blomkamp caught everyone by surprise with his sci-fi editorial on the African apartheid struggle with 2009's excellent District 9. Thanks to the success of that film, expectations are high for his newest film which disguises more social commentary, this time an analysis of the social class struggle in this part of the world, inside a great science fiction action flick. The result is Elysium: a rousingly entertaining movie that stands on the level of the other staples in the genre. In Elysium, it's the mid-22nd century, and all of Earth is essentially a third-world country. Disease is rife, poverty is the norm, and life is generally depressing. When the world started to turn for the worse, the richest among us (aka the "1%") fled to space and a floating satellite utopia called Elysium where they can live their lives in harmonic bliss. Our hero Max Decosta (Matt Damon) is just an average guy who used to run afoul of the law in his youth, but is now just trying to live an honest and simple life in what's left of Los Angeles. An accident at work ends up leaving him with just days to live, and as a result becomes desperate to get to Elysium any way he can, as the medical facilities there can instantly heal any ailment. He reverts to his criminal ways to earn a trip up, and in the midst of a simple heist stumbles upon something that could change the course of both Earth and Elysium forever.

I was not expecting Elysium to be as action-packed as it was, but it was a pleasant surprise to get a movie very similar in tone and feel to Total Recall (the 1990 Schwarzenegger original, not the crap 2012 remake). Matt Damon remains one of our most versatile and talented leading men. As he is usually prone to do, Damon simultaneously commands the screen without dominating it allowing the supporting cast to shine brighter more than they might normally. Jodie Foster is fine as Elysium's ruthless Defense Secretary who is trying to keep Elysium's star shining by any means necessary. The real star here though is Sharlto Copley who as Kruger, a sociopathic Elysium sleeper agent with a tremendous blood lust, steals the entire movie as the villain you love to hate. There's also a subdued performance from the always excellent William Fichtner who is criminally underused in this film.

The plot in Elysium was surprisingly basic, if not predictable, which is really one of the only knocks against it. The movie makes up for this though with exciting action sequences and solid cinematography. There was never a point in Elysium where I was bored or felt the movie was dragging along. I also tend to geek out over setting in movies like these and I was a fan of the visual polarity of the dystopian Earth contrasting with the pristine Elysium which the gamer nerd in me thought bore at least a thematic resemblance to the Mass Effect series' Citadel. Overall, I feel like Elysium is a much more accessible film than District 9; it's no meathead action flick, but it's not too smart to alienate people looking for something simpler.

Elysium was a great movie to watch, and it's always nice to see a movie born of a topical issue not get too wrapped up in the message it's sending to forget to be entertaining as well. I'll be watching Elysium again at some point, and you should make it point to watch it as well, as it's one of the finer sci-fi films in recent memory.

[easyreview title= "Review of Elysium" cat1title="Brad's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]