“Hardcore Henry” touts itself as the first feature-length first-person action movie.
The trailers include quotes from reviews that compare the film to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “Jason Bourne” — complete with a “Call of Duty” angle. While this concept is certainly new to the big screen, it may have been a bit presumptuous to correlate “Hardcore Henry” with such exceptional films.
After waking up with missing limbs and no memory, Henry is rebuilt by his wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett, “The Equalizer”). When Estelle is kidnapped by a mysterious man with telekinetic powers, Henry finds himself hunted by a seemingly never-ending onslaught of mercenaries.
Things become more confusing when several versions of a man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley, “District 9”) arrive on the scene to help Henry recover his wife and stop the villain from creating an army of bio-engineered soldiers.
Too much of a good thing
In cinematography, elements such as wide angles, shaky camera and POV (point of view) can be powerful tools. These elements can be used to evoke feelings of fear, uncertainty, or the that the viewer is in the thick of the action.
Unfortunately, when all three are used for a prolonged time, it can become burdensome and nauseating. This is especially true for the 96-minute running time.
No character depth
To create the illusion that that the viewer is Henry, “Hardcore Henry” sticks with the silent protagonist route, claiming the voice modulator is broken. This creates some uncomfortable moments, as Henry attempts to communicate by awkwardly flailing his arms in protest, making the “dialogue” forced and frustrating.
This causes Henry to have absolutely no personality, conveniently mirroring to the film’s lack of character. Beyond the first-person angle, anything that would give this movie any unique qualities is absent.
The story is overly simplistic due to its unwillingness to explain most plot details, the erratic camera movement throws off parts of the action, and the characters — except for Jimmy — are far too cartoonish to be invested in.
First-person idea falls flat
The biggest issue with “Hardcore Henry” is that it fails to see its own irrelevancy.
With so many first-person shooter games on the market with a more compelling story and protagonist, this movie simply stands as a violent experience without player interactivity. If there are better and less nauseating experiences from video games, why does this film exist?
Action scenes shine through
With all of that being said, “Hardcore Henry” is an incredibly exciting movie. The action is wonderfully choreographed — when the camera takes a moment to be still.
The amount of gore and blood that paints the sets is admirable and gleefully disgusting. While shootouts are enjoyable, it’s the hand-to-hand combat where the action really shines. This is especially true for a fantastic, intense and visceral third act.
The movie refuses to take a breath, constantly throwing a barrage of action scenes and gun fights. The pacing is undeniably fast and the intensity gradually builds throughout the entire film.
The variety of roles portrayed by Copley are absolutely impressive, as he keeps the pace up with his headstrong commitment to the film’s bizarre premise and style.
Enjoy the film for what it is
When it comes to genre-creating movies, “Hardcore Henry” lies in a bad position. It’s nothing new and far too proud of itself to see its abundance of flaws that prevent it from being both a good and relevant film.
While “Hardcore Henry” may not be as marvelous as it thinks it is, that doesn’t stop it from still being an enjoyable — albeit useless — action flick.