If bonkers over the top action has a name then that name is definitely Hardcore Henry.
Writing up a synopsis for this movie is an almost impossible task, up there with untangling the Gordian knot, because this film is an experience not a story. That’s an odd thing to say I know, but almost anything I do say here will spoil the film and it really should be seen, not read about.
Anyway, here’s the briefest of outlines – Henry wakes up, after being converted into a cyborg by his wife, when suddenly a powerful warlord, Akan, with ambitions of building his own army of ‘ Henries’ attacks, then the action begins, and it’s pretty much non-stop from there.
Hardcore Henry was easily one of the most insanely entertaining ninety minutes of my life. Seriously, in that brief hour and a half I saw things that I’ve never seen before and will probably never see again, mostly because unlike any other film before it, this entire film is set in the first person.
I’ve been criticised in the past for not just going along with action films, which are meant to be spectacles designed to simply entertain and that I’m taking things far too seriously. Well, to that I say give me a film like Hardcore Henry every week and not a dour mess of superheroes punching the shit out of each other, and I’ll happily drink the mind numbing Kool-Aid all day.
The film is a must see just for the concept alone. The idea that you could make a full length first person feature with a silent protagonist is mind boggling, and the fact that they pull it off with such aplomb is just staggering.
Honestly, the movie is ground-breaking in its approach to both camera work and stunt choreography, and I loved every second of the bombastic action, if you’re an adrenaline junkie this is a must see.
The film’s deuteragonist, Jimmy, is the stand out, partially because he’s the only character in the story to get even a sliver of real characterisation, but mostly because of Sharlto Copely’s absolutely insane performance as Jimmy, which must have been the acting equivalent of a triathlon.
I can’t go into the specifics because that would be treading into the no man’s land of spoilers (God forbid) but, needless to say, his performance really demonstrates his comedic potential as well as his considerable chops as an action star.
Now, all that’s not to say that the film isn’t flawed. It is, and part of me wants to say deeply, but I can’t because that doesn’t feel fair as it’s less a film, and more of a video game experience.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that both Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft have been pipped to the post of the ‘first good video game movie’ by Henry – it’s just that Henry isn’t based on an existing property.
Now, if we’re being critical, as a film, its story is paper thin and we never really get to understand quite what’s going on beyond the initial idea that Henry is being hunted by Akan, and I will admit to being slightly confused as to what exactly made Henry special.
But I feel the need to quantify this by adding that the film’s not really interested in explaining this. All we see is Henry’s viewpoint, both narratively and literally, so it never felt like a looming problem.
I feel though that this movie will alienate audiences who perhaps aren’t used to the feeling of playing video games and I must confess the screening I was in, bar a few exceptions, didn’t seem overly impressed with what the film had to offer. But, hey, what do critics know?
I’ve also heard reports that people have suffered motion sickness after watching the film, which is understandable considering its rather unusual style and frantic action.
Overall then, it’s clear that Hardcore Henry isn’t going to be for everyone, but for those willing to go along with the madness it’ll be a treat.