MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Hardcore Henry’ sucks as a video game and movie

hardcore henry review

Film: Hardcore Henry
Directed by: Ilya Naishuller
Starring: Haley Bennett, Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth

“It’s like watching a video game.” A statement that many a people use to describe highfalutin action/adventure epics that litter theaters today. Most recently, people used that statement to describe Gods Of Egypt, an incoherent ode to ’70s mythological epics. Hardcore Henry understands that statement but takes it one step further, putting the viewer in the shoes of its hero by shooting everything on a GoPro camera strapped to the head of the main character.

The POV aesthetic is an interesting conceit but using it in a narrative film such as this only hobbles the impact. It’s a 96-minute wet dream borne out of shooter video game culture, one that treats the viewers as judge, jury and executioner. One that is interested in nothing more than dispatching and disembodying whatever nameless baddie is coming at the operator with a gun. If it’s thrills you’re looking for, then you’ll find them here. But don’t expect some kind of highbrow pleasure; this is action adrenaline shot right through an IV. That doesn’t always make for good cinema, though.

Henry gets resurrected from death by Estelle (Haley Bennett) only to find out that he’s been fitted with robotic limbs and super abilities. He’s then swept into a fight with Akan (Anila Kozlovsky), the megalomaniac hellbent on taking the technology that Henry has for his own sinister purposes.

There isn’t really any way to spoil Hardcore Henry unless statements like “he used a grenade launcher to blow a guy in half” strikes your nerve. It’s a relatively simple thrill ride that only requires the viewer to sit back and enjoy the ride, like one of those roller coaster simulators you used to see at arcades. The problem here is that the ride isn’t very good. Aside from all of the nauseating shaky cam nonsense that’ll leave you rushing to the bathroom after the movie, the ride or “experience” will numb the senses of even the most ardent thrill-seekers.

The prospect of this starting a movement in POV filmmaking may be more interesting than the movie itself. With virtual reality becoming something exciting, audiences may want to seek condensed versions of those experiences in theaters. Instead of spending countless hours on a video game, they can experience all of the emotions of a game through a narrative film. Hardcore Henry isn’t as much of a narrative film as it is an elongated cinematic from Call Of Duty or something of that ilk.

Luckily though, the movie is committed to its own crazed insanity that it actually becomes kind of admirable. Sharlto Copley plays a bunch of people named Jimmy, some kind of clones that keep popping up to help Henry with his adventure; every clone outfitted with their own weird personality, like a hard-nosed lieutenant or a pot-smoking hippie. At one point, the MacGuffins and bodies pile up to the ultimate showdown between Henry and Akan—one where the explosive third acts of norm are upended by predictable twists.

Hardcore Henry trots along thinking it’s a new experience, but that can’t be further from the truth. It embodies the worst of action cinema. Call it a movie if you want, but it’s barely that.

GRADE: C-

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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