Starring: Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth, Haley Bennett
A man wakes up in a Moscow laboratory with no memory of his former life to learn that he has been brought back from the dead as a half-human, half-robotic hybrid, and that he is called Henry. However, the woman claiming to be his wife that brought him back to life is unable to activate Henry’s voice as she is kidnapped by thugs led by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a psychopath with telekinetic abilities. After being rescued by the mysterious Jimmy (Copley), Henry learns of Akan’s plan to destroy the world with super soldiers like himself, and with the help of Jimmy embarks on a dangerous and very violent mission to stop Akan and rescue his wife.
Ah yes; I should also mention that the entirety of Hardcore Henry is filmed from the point of view of Henry. This must be said from the very start as it basically the film’s main selling point! Not that this necessarily adds originality, but it makes Hardcore Henry that little bit different. It also best to focus on that rather vacuous aspect, as every other aspect of the film is beyond ridiculous that it is not even worth going into.
It is very also hard to review this film, as the title, ‘plot’, age rating and the whole first person concept basically review the film anyway. Hardcore Henry is essentially a 90-odd minute barrage of non-stop, over the top violence with a plot that basically appears to make things up as it goes along (and certainly seems to be inspired by the vastly superior Crank films). If entered with the right expectations (basically; brain switched VERY off) then Hardcore Henry is certainly passable entertainment. I must admit that I did find one aspect of its narrative engaging, but this was admittedly only the intrigue of just how outrageously ridiculous the narrative and the set pieces were going to get. Answer: Very (and that is putting it mildly!).
This alone does admittedly make Hardcore Henry quite engaging viewing as the viewer cannot help but ask themselves the very pertinent question of “what the hell is the director going to do next?”, followed by “oh, that!”. The concept of the film does wear thin very quickly, but it does at least admittedly make some of the action sequences that bit more bonkers. It does feel like watching a computer game at times (though I personally never go for the first-person camera angle if given the choice), but it ultimately does not enhance the film that much and just feels like a migraine inducing gimmick. The Crank films themselves were just as bonkers but far better, while The Raid films are far superior examples of how to really make bonkers (but also visually stunning) violence.
I personally saw this film at home, but anyone that saw Hardcore Henry at the cinema; you do truly have my deepest sympathies and I just hope that they provided aeroplane style sick buckets!
As the ‘plot’ (which is beyond stupid) plods along we are all just simply waiting for the next outrageously bonkers action set piece anyway, so care little for the exposition as to why Henry is like he is, why there are many Sharlto Copley’s wondering around and why the film’s bad guy has Darth Vader like telekinetic abilities (literally NO explanation is even offered for this plot aspect!). When seeing the credits at least explanation as to why Hardcore Henry arises; it is produced by Timur Bekmambetov, and the films he directs often have no care for narrative coherency either!
To try to criticise Hardcore Henry too much is like banging one’s head against a brick wall, while filming this from one’s point of view and then being tied to a chair and watching this said footage again and again. This film is first and foremost utter rubbish that cares not for the craft of any kind of actual storytelling, however its extreme levels of filmmaking audacity mean that it is so outrageously bonkers and stupid, that when watched with the right expectations (and perhaps complementary alcohol), it is impossible not to be at least a little, if not highly entertained.
There are very few words that can accurately sum up Hardcore Henry, but I think it is fair to say that its title says it all! It is as bonkers as it is audacious, but enjoyable if entered with the right expectations.