I saw the first trailer for Hardcore Henry in the cinema a few weeks ago and I was shaking my head at the ridiculousness of it. It seemed like just another dumb shooters with a gimmick of that it was in first person. But trailers have advertised their films wrong before and I always try to go into a new film with an open mind. So, does Hardcore Henry actually come together as a film?
Hardcore Henry stars Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett and Tim Roth and is directed by Ilya Naishuller. The film follows Henry as he is brought back to life as a cyborg by his wife Estelle (Bennett). She is soon captured by mercenaries led by villain Akan (Kozlovsky) and Henry sets out to save her.
Hardcore Henry‘s main selling point is its first-person camera perspective. While films have dabbled in first person (the adaptation of Doom had a cringe worthy stab at it), it hasn’t been widely used by creators for films. And sure, for a good while the first person viewpoint works. And extended sequence in an abandoned hotel, which features a floor-by-floor gunfight is gloriously dumb, along with several moments of flashy parkour chases, it comes together for a few minutes. Sadly, a film can’t be an hour and a half of continual gunfights and punch-ups. You need peaks and troughs, otherwise the audience doesn’t get a break. I eventually lost interest because there was no lull in the action for me to catch my breath.
The film proudly wears it’s inspirations on its chest. Naishuller as a director has obviously grown up with YouTube, as he swipes not only video game Let’s Play’s but also amateur parkour videos and smashes them together. But that’s actually a point against it, it doesn’t feel like it should be in the cinema, it feels like I should be watching this on my computer at home.
Most of the storyline can be swept aside by just saying “because video games.” The main character having amnesia and being mute? Because video games. Telekenisis? Because video games. Women used as catalyst for story and is trophy for completing mission? Because video games. The previously mentioned abandoned hotel is ripped straight from Call Of Duty, there is a strip club from Grand Theft Auto and the parkour is from Assassins Creed. It even tries it’s hand at a Bioshock type of twist (which even the most simple of audience member will guess). That’s where Hardcore Henry will find its audience, in video game lovers and players who want to see their favourite games on play out in real life.
The script even goes a bit video gamey. Henry get’s a phone from his friend Jimmy and he calls him with his next mission. “Go there. Kill this guy. Take his macguffin to keep the plot moving.” The script also tries it’s hand at a few jokes but most of these miss. Apart from a rip on The Magnificent Seven as well as a two second visual gag involving a doormat, most of the rest of the jokes feel aimed at the teenage audience that can’t even get into the screening (Hardcore Henry is an 18). Jokes about women and gays are throughout, with nothing more to say than “you’re not the target audience for this film so we’ll make fun of you.” The whole script feels like it was made by a twelve year old hooked on sherbet, filling it with all things he thinks are cool. The previously mentioned strip club scene, which brings in needless titillation, as well as heaps of gore throughout (that makes Deadpool look like it was made for kids) it all seems juenvenile.
In the end, Hardcore Henry is exhausting. If you can turn your brain to the male teen setting (other films in this category are 300 and Grown Ups) then you might find some enjoyment. If not, then skip it.
Score: 3/10 If you’re old enough you to see it, you’re probably not its target audience.