Doom. Wolfenstein. Halo. Quake. Goldeneye 007. Call of Duty. All of the previously mentioned titles are very successful first-person shooter video games. Some of these have also inspired movies (although the exact opposite was the case for Goldeneye (1995)). People are inherently drawn to get closer to the action. Feel the danger without being in actual danger. That adrenaline rush is the main reason that types of games are so popular. Movies like The Blair Witch Project (1999), Cloverfield (2008), Quarantine (2008), Grave Encounters (2011)), and most recently Into the Storm (2014), have aimed at putting the audience front and center in the hopes of hooking in deeper connections with the films’ plots. Now most of us realize that, more often than not, it’s just a gimmicky ploy to release movies with lower budgets under the guise of making them appear “more realistic”. Now comes Russian director Ilya Naishuller’s submission into this “shaky” fray of follies with Hardcore Henry. He’s hoping (as well as STX Entertainment for that matter) that his visionary spectacle will revolutionize movie making from this day forward. How well-received will his maiden voyage be into this realm?
Ilya Naishuller gives a video game plot vibe in Hardcore Henry right from the start as the main character, Henry, has some sort of dream or flashback of his youth and then awakens in a medical facility after having some obvious work done to his body. He’s confused as to what’s going on (as is the audience at this point) but patience proves to be key as the opening sequence plays out. He’s met by a woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett) who appears to be more than just his caregiver. Before being able to get satisfactory answers, the facility comes under attack. The man behind this attack is Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and he seems to have an unquenchable thirst for bloody destruction. With Estelle’s help, the two narrowly escape the clutches of this deranged lunatic but it’s a victory that is only temporary. Akan and his goons catch up to Henry as the cat versus mouse game continues. Estelle ends up being abducted and Henry tries to make sense of everything going on and attempts to save her.
There are loads of expendable, nameless characters that give up their lives in the name of cinematic gore-filled glory. The body count in Hardcore Henry is painfully high. I mean to the point that you absolutely do not care. Death after death after death after death will quickly make most viewers numb to the feelings associated with this type of violence. Since the entire film is predicated on this type of violence, it’s up to the director and writers to get creative. And creative they get in ridiculous, gratuitous and downright foolish ways. Some of what occurs is entertaining while other sequences are just plain stupid. It’s almost as if someone said “hey let’s hit these buttons over and over and see what happens.” Relying too heavily on outlandish violence seemed to leave little time to develop any sort of engaging plot.
Because of the tone of the film, caring for any of the characters in a non-starter. Everyone is expendable so it isn’t a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. Two “names” that lend themselves to Hardcore Henry are Tim Roth and Sharlto Copley. Roth only has a few scenes while Copley is seen constantly throughout and not always recognizable. He definitely worked for his check. I suppose the biggest contributor to the movie is the GoPro operator. He certainly had his work cut out for him. The one other honorable mention here, that is arguably the best part of this movie, would be the soundtrack. The music does a great job syncing up harmoniously with all of the craziness on screen with the best song selection being Don’t Stop Me Now as performed by Queen.
Hardcore Henry can best be described as pointless with a purpose. The purpose is to see how many kills they can capture on camera and the point is….oh wait there is no point. There is some, like a small portion of, admiration to be had at what Ilya Naishuller tried to accomplished. He just went a little overboard by trying so hard. The constant motion will have a few feeling a bit green in the face. Others will be turned off by the unwavering brutality. Then there will be those that stomp their feet saying that it is a complete waste of time and money. There will be lots of negativity towards this, and rightfully so. Still, there are a group of people out there, some critics and a smattering of regular fans, that will defend this movie by calling it a visionary work of art. I am NOT one of those people. I think your time and money are better spent elsewhere. STX Entertainment usually comes through with the movies they distribute but I cannot see that being the case here. The core demographic for this will be your 16 – 25 year old males. Most others should take a hard (core) pass on this.