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.
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