Film review of the action movie that is told from a first person perspective, which puts the viewer through the protagonist’s eyes.
Director: Ilya Naishuller. (96 mins). Bazelevs Production/Versus Pictures. (18)
Cast & Credits
Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Ekaterina Kononenko, Ilya Naishuller, et.al.
Writers: Ilya Naishuller, Will Stewart.
Camera: Pasha Kapinos, Vsevolod Kaptur, Fedor Lyass.
Music: Darya Charusha.
Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth.
Henry wakes up in a scientific lab with no memory and no voice. A woman named Estelle (Bennett) informs him that they are married and he has been enhanced with many skills. But, before Henry can dwell on such news, Estelle is kidnapped by Akan (Kozlovsky); a Russian warlord with psychic powers. Henry now with his new super fighting abilities must battle through Akan’s mercenaries to rescue Estelle, with the help from the mysterious Jimmy (Copley).
Shot almost entirely with a Go Pro camera, Hardcore Henry has been named as the first action movie to be filmed from a first person perspective. The viewpoint we get is that of our title hero, and yes Henry is indeed hardcore. Henry is an impressive fighting and shooting machine thanks to his robotic improvements. The film is without doubt reminiscent of FPS video games such as Call of Duty, and is also similarly stylised from the likes of Grand Theft Auto, especially with its level of brutality.
As the film started, I turned to ask my boyfriend why this film was given an 18 certificate. Cue a slow motion shot of a knife going all the way through someone’s neck. That’s why, and that was just the opening credits! From start to finish, Hardcore Henry is without a doubt a nonstop, over-the-top, hyper-violent hour and a half. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then you will surely get a caffeinated kick out of this film. I just happen to like more depth in my action films.
The plot, if you can call it that, is purely a series of scenes in which Henry fights his way through many, many mercenaries. Although Henry is very innovative in his way of battling them; guns, grenades, bricks, pole down your throat, it does unfortunately get a little tiresome. Additionally, also sometimes being nauseating with all the shakiness of the camera. The film never builds up towards a memorable final showdown. The climax between Henry and Akan in the end is nothing impressive since we’ve now been desensitised to all the action.
As well as being treated to an excessive amount of action, we also get an abundance of topless ladies. One of the fight scenes just had to be in a Russian brothel. And in a literal sense of Laura Mulvey’s theory of “the male gaze” we actually get a POV shot of these women jiggling about as they escape from gun wielding attackers. With the exception of Estelle, the rest of the female characters serve little purpose to the plot, but they do get to be credited with such names as; Olga the dominatrix, Ella the whore, Angry Prostitute, and Rape Victim. Oh dear Russia!
But with all problems with the movie aside, I have to admit that you do sort of have fun with it, in an it’s so bad, it’s good kind of way. Some of the lines and the delivery of them are just so cringeworthy you can’t help but laugh. Kozlovsky portrayal of Akan is that of an Albino Tommy Wiseau level of cheesiness. There’s a random rendition of I’ve Got You Under My Skin half way through the film. Henry tries and fails to tame a horse. Hardcore Henry is at it’s core: surprising and ridiculously entertaining, once you stop taking it seriously.
The saving grace of this film is the omnipresent Jimmy who pretty much steals the entire film. Jimmy’s purpose to the film is to act as the person in a video game who would debrief you and say where to go for the next level. And thank God he does, he is our much needed exposition to the plot. What makes Jimmy so unique though, is that he is a series of clones, all of which embody their own personalities. A hippie, a punk rocker and (my favourite) an old-time British soldier being a few. Copley clearly has a lot of fun playing these different parts, and as a result he is the most enjoyable and comical aspect to the film.
Hardcore Henry is indeed an impressive moment in cinematic history in terms of its realistic and camera techniques and stunts. People should go watch this film at least once just for the amazingly talented stunt performers. Despite mixed reviews, I’m positive the film will gain a following, it definitely has hints of a midnight movie charm towards it, as well as being thrilling enough to entertain action movie junkies. But at the end of the day, I prefer to watch my boyfriend play video games, at least then I get to mock him when he fails a mission.