You wake up in a futuristic hospital with no memory of who you are, or how you got there. After being outfitted with new robotic limbs you find out that your wife has been kidnapped by a telekinetic villain, and it’s your job to go get her back and stop the villain from taking over the world.
This might sound like your typical video game, but it’s actually the plot of the film “Hardcore Henry.” Written and directed by Ilya Naishuller, the movie puts viewers in the shoes of the title character as he punches, shoots and fights his way through Russia to save his wife.
The story takes a backseat for most of the movies’ 90-minute run time, which is mainly focused on nonstop action sequences. Whether it’s a fist fight with random civilians or a motorcycle chase down a highway, there’s rarely a moment of peace for the audience.
The movie stands out from other action films because it was shot entirely from Henry’s point of view with the use of GoPro cameras. This stylistic choice leads to impactful action scenes- At times you even feel as if you’re Henry.
The violence in the film is brutal. The first-person perspective lets the audience see every grisly detail that Henry sees. Torn out hearts, decapitated heads and stabbings galore all make an appearance. However, the violence is so over-the-top that it takes a slight comedic tone, making it easier to stomach.
Thanks to the distinctive camera style and Henry’s inability to speak, he must express himself in creative ways. He communicates via hand motions, nodding and shaking his head. It’s simple, but gives depth to what could otherwise be a pretty flat character.
The scene-stealer however is the character of Jimmy, played by Sharlto Copley.
Jimmy teams up with Henry early on, and adds much-needed heart and humor to the film. Once you start to learn more about him and his goals, you start to sympathize and even root for him more than you do for Henry.
Unfortunately, the rest of the characters aren’t as well developed. The villain Akan, played by Danila Kozlozky, is bent on world domination for reasons unknown. Why does he have telekinetic superpowers when it seems like no one else in this world does? That doesn’t matter, all that matters is that he’s evil and Henry needs to stop him.
The plot of “Hardcore Henry” is equally basic. The film really boils down to the same formula: Henry goes to a location, kills everyone, then goes onto the next location, rinse and repeat. Any interesting plot revelations happen in the last act, but happen so fast that the audience has little time to process them, and could easily forget about them.
The use of GoPro cameras can be-hit-or-miss too; darker scenes look blurry and grainy compared to those with lots of light. These scenes show that GoPros aren’t ready for the big screen yet.
The first-person view the movie has may be divisive for some. The charm of seeing a movie literally through the eyes of the main character can wear off after a while. Also, those prone to motion sickness should probably stay away, because the film is constantly moving and shaking with rarely a still shot.
“Hardcore Henry” is a unique film. It has shortcomings with its characters and plot, but you can tell the filmmakers didn’t care about that. Their focus is on the action and how the last set piece can top the next. For those who love action and want to see something different than normal, “Hardcore Henry” is worth checking out. Anyone looking for something deep or meaningful should stay away.