Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Movie Review #408: "Hardcore Henry" (2016)

Movie"Hardcore Henry"
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
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A cyborg named Henry is awoken in a lab by a woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett), who says she is his wife. Moments later, Estelle is kidnapped by a telekinetic man named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), who wants to build his own cyborg army of super soldiers. Now, Henry must fight his way through an army of mercenaries with the help of a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) to try and retrieve his kidnapped bride.

Ilya Naishuller's "Hardcore Henry" is an nonstop action flick shot entirely in the first person perspective with what appears to be a head mounted GoPro camera. In a culture where many people find entertainment in watching others play video games on sites like Twitch and YouTube, this film may be perfect for those looking to get the same thrills, but on the big screen instead. However, as a movie, "Hardcore Henry" only exists to be pure, unadulterated chaos. It is unrelenting with movement, violence, and noise where it can rattle your senses to the point of nausea. Not wanting to buy into the idea that something like this would make us sick, we went into the film with a tough will and strong mindset, only to walk out of the theater feeling completely discombobulated with a sensation that can only be described as mild vertigo. It lasted for hours. We went to a theater not so close to where we live and felt sick the entire drive back to our house. A couple of people in our screening didn't even make it to the end and simply walked out in the middle of it.

As far as a coherent story or narrative, there isn't really one to be found. It's more like a rough outline than an actual plot. The main villain, Akan, played by Danila Kozlovsky, wants to build a cyborg army of super soldiers for reasons. Though those reasons are never revealed. Akan has super strong telekinetic powers capable of wiping out said cyborg army single-handedly, again, because reasons. It left us wondering why the hell Akan needed such an army in the first place if he had these powers at his direct disposal. Sharlto Copley plays Jimmy, a scientist who helps Hardcore Henry with his tasks through a series of ever-changing appearances, including a punk rocker, an old-school wartime general, a hippie pot smoker, a drug-snorting maniac, and a Broadway chap to name a few. Copley's main function is to provide exposition and to give Henry his next task, mostly via narration. He acts much like a video game tutorial that guides him through the steps of game play, each "level" getting harder and harder until the epic "boss fight." Copley is a great actor and plays to his strengths here, namely his weirdness. He's really the best part of an otherwise not too compelling flick plot-wise.

There are bevy of cool action scenes in "Hardcore Henry" and the stunt work is absolutely incredible. People are killed left and right, some in typical fashion and others in imaginative, horrifying ways as the body count rises as quickly as the number of times we felt like vomiting. Because of the first person nature of its direction, the camera never really offers a perspective in which we can appreciate them. Even when the action slows down, the projection on screen still appears weirdly warped to a point where your eyes have trouble adjusting to it all. Unfortunately, it winds up feeling like a glorified found footage film with an even shakier camera. In a way, it accomplishes what it sets out to do by being a balls to the wall, endless action romp, but when push comes to shove, it's GoPro cinema at its finest and little else. Some audience goers may find this experience exhilarating, but we did not. We really, really, really hope this type of filmmaking does not become common because we'll have to avoid other movies like this should they become a popular method of expression in cinema.

It's odd to review a movie like this. Was it kick ass? Yes. Did the acting work for the most part? Sure, Copley plays 8-time duty and we're not complaining. Were we moderately entertained? Yeah, a bit. Would we ever revisit this film again? HELL NO. Would we recommend this movie to others? Not likely. In the end, "Hardcore Henry" is a gimmick devoid of story, but that doesn't mean it's terrible. BigJ disliked it more than I did, which is surprising given the amount of sheer violence and utter chaos sweeping the streets of...wherever the hell this movie takes place. We feel like you'd get the same experience by playing a first person shooter game on its own and we know we've seen games with more in-depth stories than what we found here. Still, it's not the worst waste of time or money.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 51%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "While We're Young"

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