***1/2 (out of 5)
April 8, 2016
Sharlto Copley as JIMMY
Danila Kozlovsky as AKAN
Haley Bennett as ESTELLE
Tim Roth as HENRY’S FATHER
Andrei Dementiev as SLICK DMITRY
Studio: STX Entertainment
Directed by: Ilya Naishuller
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When I first saw the trailers for “Hardcore Henry,” I knew it was going to be something special. I also knew that it would be a difficult film to watch – not because of the over-the-top violence or action but rather because its first-person-shooter set-up would make it potentially nauseating.
After finally seeing it, my suspicions were confirmed, but it’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a theater being on the verge of losing my cookies.
The story is relatively simple: a man named Henry wakes up from an extensive operation that has augmented him with bionic limbs and super-soldier powers. While he’s recovering, terrorists break into the lab to steal his technology. He escapes with his wife (Haley Bennett), who is the doctor who cured him, and he goes on the run. Aided by a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), he has to fight through an army of people to save himself and the woman he loves.
It’s not exactly Oscar-winning story elements, feeling a bit like a standard direct-to-video Eastern European action title you’ll find on Best Buy shelves. However, the catch is the movie is filmed entirely from Henry’s point of view, using a GoPro camera strapped to the head of stuntmen performing some amazing feats.
This set-up is both brilliant and debilitating. It’s brilliant because it puts the audience in the driver’s seat, letting them experience the action as it happens, in your face and explosively. This makes it one of the most visceral action movies I’ve seen in years, fully exhilarating.
However, the movie suffers a bit because the nature of shooting with a GoPro can induce motion sickness and nausea in your audience. The fish-eye lens look of a GoPro camera captures plenty of action, and on the small YouTube screen, it looks pretty cool. However, blow that up to a movie screen 20 feet tall (or possibly more extreme, to a large-format IMAX screen), and you might have some issues.
Sure, audiences of today have been acclimated to herky-jerky camera movement with the wash of found footage movies that have been released over the past decade or so, but “Hardcore Henry” is a different experience entirely. I’ve seen plenty of found footage movies and walked out with an annoyed demeanor and maybe a mild headache. Not since the original “The Blair Witch Project” have I actually felt a bit ill from watching the film.
But don’t let the fact that you might just throw up reflect negatively on this movie. “Hardcore Henry” is a hell of a ride. Just take your Dramamine first.
Because while the story is a bit thin, the action is eye-popping and often amazing. It’s a hyper-violent film with oodles of gunplay and sprays of blood from all directions. The action is so intense that it makes the movie “Crank” look like “My Dinner with Andre.”
Plus, Sharlto Copley plays the most entertaining and multifaceted character he’s been given in a while. Every time Copley shows up, he brightens the scene with his antics and over-the-top style. I could watch a whole movie about him alone.
In the end, “Hardcore Henry” can be a challenge, but it’s worth taking the plunge. Just don’t eat a stack of pancakes and chug a beer before seeing it.