Cinematic Releases: Hardcore Henry

Andrew reviews the first person POV action extravaganza, Hardcore Henry.

Smell my hands!
The most hotly anticipated first person point of view action thriller in recent memory, the Russian-American co-production Hardcore Henry, takes the abstract concept of sensory overload to outlandish and ultraviolent new heights.  Something of a crossbreed between the origins story of Robocop, the personality of Crank 2: High Voltage, the breakneck speed of District 13 and the GoPro bloodbath of Hotel Inferno, the first film of Russian director Ilya Naishuller is a nonstop ballet of bullets, punches and severed limbs.  Akin to the offbeat and comically amoral compass of Postal 2 with an inspired sense of fantastical science fiction lunacy which only gets more ridiculously over the top with each passing scene, Hardcore Henry is every ounce of the explosive stick of dynamite it's now legendary theatrical trailer promised it would be.  This is one of the rare times where I didn't mind watching someone else play the video game.  From beginning to end, Hardcore Henry is one seriously wild ride of pure unadulterated visceral adrenaline which begs the question why hasn't GoPro filmmaking reached this cinematic war zone until now.  You're unlikely to find an action adventure flick more insanely over the top than this all year.

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You've got something on your nose. 
As previously mentioned, the GoPro aesthetic takes some getting used to and at the ticket booth was a warning about motion sickness (non-applicable to yours truly thankfully) due to the first person perspective.  Watching Hardcore Henry was both refreshing and a tad derivative as I spotted more than a few cues lifted from the Wachowskis' The Matrix, particularly in the first half.  Sharlto Copley more or less picks up where he left off with District 9 and Tim Roth sports an amusing cameo appearance in the beginning, but the film's real star is the GoPro camera which follows every move of the actor's head as he looks up, down, behind him and far ahead.  Some of the most impressive scenes involve the film's hero climbing atop buildings from the outer walls and leaping from building to building ala District 13.  

CGI is heavy and possibly overused but the energy of this thing is palpable.  Like a caged dog anxiously awaiting release, Hardcore Henry takes off running at full speed rarely stopping for a moment to catch its breath.  This is also probably the goriest, most violent action thriller to hit multiplexes since The Raid 2 which it has a lot in common with in terms of rapid fire toe to toe combat battles.  Limbs are torn from bodies, heads are blown off or ripped apart, bones are broken in all directions and there's even a scene where someone's brains are blown into the camera lens, obscuring the image with red flesh and blood.  Without a doubt, this is the hardest R rated movie in terms of extreme violence to come along in a great while.

I got new toys for Christmas!
Fans of the found footage aesthetic and first person shooter videogame formula will be elated by this electrically charged gorefest which also happens to have a snarky sense of humor when it isn't flooring viewers with the batshit plotline and increasingly overblown action sequences which never stop and only intensify as the film progresses.  Hardcore Henry won't be everyone's cup of tea but for this avid consumer of needlessly ultraviolent exploitation gore, I was not disappointed.  If you're the type of viewer who got motion sickness while watching The Blair Witch Project, Hardcore Henry won't be any easier on your gag reflexes in more ways than one.  Yes the plotline jumps the rails time and time again and no there isn't a whole lot going on upstairs, but you're hard pressed to care about what deeper meanings you can derive from the sight of a head being ripped off of a man's lower jaw.  All in all, Hardcore Henry is a superbly slick check-your-brain-at-the-door entertainment with more sheer outrageousness than most horror movies outside of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive or Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II.  I can't remember the last time unabashed mindless fun hasn't been this deliriously entertaining!  


- Andrew Kotwicki