- Movie Rating -

Hardcore Henry (2016)

| April 10, 2016

Oh, mother of mercy, let’s all pray that this does not become a trend.

I guess it would be prudent to start this review by answering the question that is swimming around in your head right now:  Is the world’s first first-person POV action picture too nauseating to sit through?  Well, I can’t speak for your experience; I can only speak for my own.  Personally, it didn’t bother me.  I don’t suffer from vertigo and I have a reasonably strong constitution so sitting through this movie didn’t cause me any discomfort.  I don’t know the general consensus but based on what I saw, it doesn’t seem to generate much more headache or nausea than the average found-footage movie.  Your experience may vary.

I suppose it also may have been an act of mercy that the studio chose not to release a print of this movie in wide-screen IMAX.  Sitting through the movie in a regular screen may be tough going but being immersed in the experience on a 50 foot screen is really too much.  That experience, I imagine would be something akin to sitting through The Chevy Show at Six Flags, that large-screen dome presentation that immerses you in roller coaster rides before putting you behind the wheel of a car that’s about to hit a train.  Regular screen is sufficient, thank you.

But let’s get to the movie.  Over-written and over-caffeinated, Hardcore Henry none-the-less has a gimmick that is admittedly a clever one.  The entire production takes place from the point of view of a man named Henry who has been injured and refitted with bionics or cybernetics or exo-Robocop-Terminator-thingies or something.  Anyway he’s part man, part metal.  He’s also on the run.  Almost as soon as his camera is switched on, some guys in black suits bust into the lab and Henry goes on the run.

Henry runs and he runs and he runs and he runs.  He runs down hallways and stairwells; he runs down highways; he runs through grassy terrain; he runs through cityscapes; he does an extended Parkour; he falls from great heights; he jumps out of airplanes and helicopters; he bashes through windows, and he kills his enemies with knives, handguns, machine guns, baseball bats, hand grenades and sometimes with his own two hands.  Did I say kill?  I mean splatter kill.  Hardcore Henry is an ultraviolent splatter movie turned up to 11, 12 and 13.  Dare I say that if the POV doesn’t get you, the blood and guts surely will.

As long as Henry ran, I was entertained.  When it slowed down to tell a story is when I got bored.  There is some method to this madness, and a reason that Henry is running for his electronic life.  There’s some business about a mysterious albino cybernetics expert named Akan who wants to create a cyber-army and has the ability to move objects around as if he is using The Force.  It’s never explained and hardly matters.  Truthfully, this part of the movie is like a weight around the movie’s ankle.

What works is the motivation to keep Henry moving.  The best part of the movie is his constant companion, a jabbering, hyperactive bloke named Jimmy (wonderfully played by Sharlto Copely) whose sole function is to keep Henry away from the bad guys.  There is a great running gag in that every time Jimmy shows up, he gives Henry a piece of useful advice and then gets himself shot, stabbed, set on fire or some other grisly fate, yet he keeps turning up.  He shows up as a geeky scientist, then as a crude homeless man, then as a hippie, then as a punk rocker, then as a coked-up brothel owner, and then (my favorite) as a stiff-upper lipped British Army officer straight from the trenches of World War I who, at one point, tossed a grenade he gives it a jolly “Tally-Ho!”

Jimmy is fun as long as the running gag is still running.  Late in the movie, his regeneration is given an explanation and that kind of deflates the gag.  It might have been more fun if he just kept coming back for no reason.  Actually that’s my problem with the movie as a whole.  When Henry is running, the movie works, but when it wants to reveal some of the plot it stops working.  That’s because in order to get to the plot, Henry has to stop running, and we don’t want that.

That’s too bad because, for the most part, this is a clever movie.  It has some very nice, original touches.   My favorite was a moment when Jimmy is accosted by two women who jabber at him in Russian so fiercely that their subtitles eventually start crowding on top of one another.  The other is an extended visit to a strip club/brothel that has so many women employed that the annual  payroll must match the GND.  Seriously, check out the credits where there is an eventual credit for “Girl in Brothel #29”.

Those are great touches along the way, but you might be asking the obvious: Does the gimmick wear out it’s welcome?  For me, it didn’t, at least for a while.  I did grow restless in the closing scenes as the movie tried to wrap up the story and the closing scene seemed a little abrupt.  I might have preferred something a little more clever than simply ending the picture as soon as the bad guys are dispatched.  But, I suppose it’s just that kind of movie.  That’s just my point of view.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Recent