Movie Review: Hardcore Henry

Published on April 26th, 2016 in: Action Movies, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Tyler Hodg

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Hardcore Henry, a Russian-American first-person POV action movie from Ilya Naishuller, delivers a unique cinematic experience. The film relies heavily on the visual gimmick, and for what it’s worth, is completely memorable for it.

There are terrific moments that make the viewer feel like they have become the mute, faceless title character, such as a daring escape from an enemy-infested aircraft, and a specific highway chase sequence. The sense of desperation to survive is felt throughout the majority of the movie, and is due in part to the visual style.

But past all of the smoke and mirrors, the plot of Hardcore Henry is incredibly thin. A “horrific accident” has caused the now-cyborg title character’s memory to be erased, and through very few scenes of dialogue, he learns he must search for more battery life from the hearts of select enemies in order to destroy an awkward villain who has kidnapped his wife. How alluring.

The gimmick of the movie wears off around the halfway point, and the lack of plot and character development becomes inexcusable. By the time the credits roll, viewers know as much about Henry as he does himself, which is virtually nothing.

Possibly the biggest missed opportunity was with the villain Akan, played by Danila Kozlovsky. The baddie is one-dimensional, and the film never explores the motive for his evil doings. He is just bad, that’s it. Writer Naishuller could have easily exposed more about the character, such as his intentions, and why he has telekinesis powers, but chose a more ambiguous route. Unfortunately, the mystery of the man doesn’t create tension or aura, it creates confusion as to why the character isn’t more fleshed out.

There is, however, one semi-interesting character in the film: Jimmy, played by Sharlto Copley. To explain the role fully is difficult without major spoilers, but in elementary terms, he is a helpful comrade of Henry. The scenes he appears in are plentiful, and his presence leaps off the screen. Jimmy is possibly the only character the viewers get to know, which is interesting considering the film isn’t titled “Hardcore Jimmy.”

The pacing of the film is also an issue. While it seems comical to complain that an action movie has too much action, that very argument is necessary with Hardcore Henry. There are a small amount of scenes that actually slow down and deliver dialogue that somewhat progresses the plot, but the majority of sequences are just Henry (very, very) violently beating goons and traveling to another setting to repeat. Had the film taken time to breathe, there may have been more moments to deliver development in all aspects.

Hardcore Henry has all the right pieces, but can’t put them together; ironically, it leaves viewers puzzled at the filmmakers’ decisions. The shallow plot and empty characters are far from interesting, and keeping up with the first-person gimmick eventually becomes a chore. Hardcore Henry is the type of film that you’re glad you saw, but doesn’t need to be revisited anytime soon.

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