-Although it’s an intriguing concept, this POV gun-fest can’t stay sharp past the 30 minute mark
When you make a film that has all of the bells and whistles of a video game, wouldn’t you rather play it?
That’s really the problem with Hardcore Henry, a 96 minute shoot-out of video game tropes, blood, and objectified women in the sort of classic PS2 glory before video games became so in depth and open-world. Our main character, a collection of different stunt-men and actors wearing a Go-Pro camera on their head to create the true look of a First-Person Shooter, is merely trying to go from level-to-level, boss-to-boss, to eventually take down the villain (Danila Kozlovsky) and get his wife (Haley Bennett) back. Even the side-kick shapeshifter, Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), is right out of a video game.
Our plot is that Henry is now a robotic super-soldier, where he wakes up and his beautiful wife (Bennett) is repairing him with cybernetic limbs. She’s captured, and Henry, with the help of a strange man named Jimmy, must get her back. Plenty of the villain’s goons come after him, but he faces level after level to eventually complete the story. Looking for any more character development about motivations and why certain things happen, you’re not going to get it here.
I can accept a messy, limited plot if the rest of the film works, and for awhile, Hardcore Henry really does. The first 30-40 minutes are exquisite, detailing his birth, a few fights, Jimmy’s introduction, and an amazingly filmed parkour chase sequence, and the first-person camera is a novel idea, but not interesting enough to carry a whole movie. The remaining hour is dizzy nonsense without any rhyme or reason, as the violence gets worse and worse.
When a film like this ceases to be fun, it ceases to be interesting, and it becomes the kind of experience that is relentless and refuses to end. If this was a 30 minute short that ends at the chase sequence, I would absolutely love this, but it’s tiresome and repetitive. Once the film reaches that point of exhilaration, there’s not an arc to the story, but rather a constant, relentless need for gun-play and action. John Wick captured our hearts because of the world building in addition to the violence, and we cared about the outcome. Hardcore Henry does not capture the same thing. It’s not because of the camera-work, I was able to pretty easily accept that, but rather in the stretched-thin plot and lack of any logic. Video games can be put down if you’re tired, or you can leave the room if watching your friend, but ninety minutes of a repetitive game that you don’t control? Count me out.
Director: Ilya Naishuller (X)
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett
RT Score: 51%