REVIEW: Hardcore Henry

19 04 2016

The vicarious thrill-ride and emphasis on spectacle over story are just two aspects of video games that seem to have infected the contemporary action movie. Yet very few, if any, can commit to maintaining the first-person aesthetic so prevalent in the format. At least, that is, not until Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry.”

The film takes its viewers on a wild ride through a strange Russian criminal underworld through the eyes of Henry, a man saved from death thanks to the installation of a few cybernetic limbs. Though he lacks the mental capacity to fully understand what this means, it makes him into a ruthless killer – essentially a human weapon.

“Hardcore Henry” is best understood – no, best felt – as a visceral experience. Though what it replicates is less the effect of playing a video game and more a kind of “Cloverfield”-style nausea. With perpetual off-balance motion, the film recalls the sensation of being a fumbling, stumbling drunk more than it gives the feeling of being an assassin. Its GoPro-shot immediacy also does the video quality few favors, summoning memories of YouTube videos more than any kind of cinematic adventure.

Furthermore, the authenticity of the mad rush of blood to the head gets consistently undercut by Naishuller’s visible artifice. When assuming the identity of an avatar with their joystick, gamers get a level of continuity. Essentially, their play only gets interrupted by the end of a round (or by pausing the action). In “Hardcore Henry,” however, the action gets spliced up like a “Bourne” film, and each cut only serves to showcase the limitations of the technology Naishuller and producer Timur Bekmambetov tout as being so awesome.

But those gamers need not worry, as “Hardcore Henry” panders to them even more obviously than “Deadpool.” Women are little more than sex objects; at one point, their subtitled dialogue overlaps as if to suggest that one female is indistinguishable from another. Bloodshed and murder take place at gratuitous levels, enough to raise the possibility that its creators have little to no regard for human life. At least in the films of someone like Tarantino, gore goes in purpose of themes or characters. “Hardcore Henry” just revels in raking up a body count because it can. Naishuller’s innovations here are worth exploring – mainly so they can be improved. B-2stars



2 responses

19 04 2016
Dan O.

Neat idea and gimmick, but all it did for me make me sick. Nice review Marshall.

20 04 2016
The Vern

This one does have me interested eventhough I most likely will be disappointed in the end result

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