By Michael Kaye
Hardcore Henry (Review)
Is it wrong that I write for a website called Geeksgamers.com, yet I'm not really much of a gamer? Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for the video game industry, it's just not something I enjoy as much as movies, music, television or comic books. The reason I bring this up is because the movie I'm reviewing today, Hardcore Henry, has a lot of striking comparisons to various first person shooters like Call of Duty, Gears of War and Left 4 Dead.
Here's the story. Henry, a newly resurrected cyborg who must save his wife/creator from the clutches of a psychotic tyrant with telekinetic powers, AKAN, and his army of mercenaries. Fighting alongside Henry is Jimmy, who is Henry's only hope to make it through the day.
Ok, let me say this upfront: no, this movie is not groundbreaking, nor is it the "future of cinema," but it is loads of fun, especially if you're a fan of ultra violent action sci-fi films from the 80's and 90's! Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I found the framing device for this movie brilliant. Henry is not your traditional action hero, in fact he's barely a character in his own right. I'm not just saying that because he doesn't speak, but because the movie is framed in a way that puts you right in the middle of the action. In other words, YOU are Henry! I have a feeling this movie would work perfectly with the Oculus Rift and other virtual reality devices, almost as if it was made with that technology in mind.
The direction and action choreography were pretty damn amazing. The film was shot almost entirely on a GoPro Hero 3 camera, which I'll admit took some time getting used to. I wouldn't suggest going to this movie if you have a weak stomach and are susceptible to motion sickness, cause there's a lot of shaky cam action. But unlike most action films, I give it a pass here because we're looking through the eyes of a cyborg who's constantly engaged in battle. Speaking of which, major props have to be thrown to the stuntmen/director who played Henry during these action scenes, as that had to have taken a ton of training in order to pull off.
I was really impressed with the cast of this movie, with Sharlto Copley being the obvious standout. I understand that not everyone is a fan of Copley's acting, whether it's just his incredibly thick South African accent, or it's the fact that sometimes he'll take his performance one too many steps over the line. Personally, those are all the reasons I love him. He's got such a unique screen presence, and he's more than game for anything this movie throws at him. The other standout is the main antagonist, Danila Kozlovsky as the telekinetic Akan. The fact that he's seemingly the only person with supernatural abilities makes him the most fascinating character in the whole film, if only we got to learn a touch more about his backstory.
Finally, the music is awesome! I want to buy this soundtrack immediately, especially since it has Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," which played in the trailer. But it's also got songs from The Temptations, Serj Tankian, Sublime, Biting Elbows (director Ilya Naishuller's band), and so much more. It's a very eclectic selection for an equally eclectic movie.
Now here's where I'm having trouble, and that would be the story. I can't really call this a positive or a negative, because there are equal parts I like as there are parts I dislike.
What I liked about the story was the world building. Action and sci-fi/fantasy are among my favorite genres of any medium, and I like how much of this movie felt like a throwback to classics such as Robocop and The Terminator, while mixing in elements from those first person shooters I previously mentioned. I like how this movie wasn't entirely predictable, and that the trailers did a good job at hiding some of the twists and turns, including the true motivation of Henry's "wife" Estelle.
What I didn't like was how little this movie gave a shit about any of its female characters. Not a single one of them turned out to be likeable. Either they were all whores, or they were simply horrible human beings.
This one's less of a negative, but still a touch clumsy in terms of execution. I was a little confused by Jimmy's motivation. I understand both him and Henry were going after Akan, but then why did they have that random fight in his lab? Was that just to throw Akan off, or did Jimmy have a change of heart halfway through the film. I may have to watch this a few more times so I can clear that up.
Hardcore Henry is exactly the kind of film we should be supporting. No, that doesn't mean I want every movie to be shot in first person POV, but I'd like to see filmmakers taking more risks like this. I don't expect every single movie I see to reinvent the wheel, but it would be nice to see a new spin every once in a while on familiar genres and story beats, and that's exactly what Hardcore Henry accomplished! Have you guys seen the movie yet, and if so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for more content coming your way!