Like a swift kick, punch and slap to the senses, this action film delivers on its promise of being hardcore. It’s a whole load of fun in places but there are some frenetic moments that threaten to disorientate and spoil the enjoyment, gladly that never fully happens.
Waking up in a special lab, Henry finds himself being put back together by his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett). It isn’t long until they’re under attack and Henry’s chased constantly by powerful Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). As Henry grows more accustomed to his bionic abilities he must find Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) who can help him power up.
The premise itself, about a man seeking answers to keep himself alive and ultimately running after revenge to protect his wife is nothing new but it fits the criteria for this bonkers sci-fi/action movie very well. The story is pretty much that, but with some attempts at childhood past’s echoing in to help Henry or odd multiples of characters swallowing the scenery perhaps too much, which loses the glee of what should have been a simple story that never takes off.
From the Bond like opening credits, though with more violent imagery, you know you’re in for an adrenaline fuelled ride that won’t hold back. Ilya Naishuller directs ‘Hardcore Henry’ in such a crazy way. There’s no holds barred as we see the extremities of the main character killing people. Naishuller utilises on the first person perspective in such a manner that luckily makes it less of a gimmick that it may easily have become and more of a tool to explain Henry’s robotic changes. He directs this first person view with a fast and ace knack to throw us into the brutal video game quality of the story.
It is like playing a first person shooter, because Henry or we never speak, we switch through guns and have to get to different checkpoints throughout the narrative to advance before the final boss level. This last fight with endless waves of combat and Akan’s powers taking prominence showcase the brilliant stunt work and effects combination this movie has. There’s a lot of hand to hand fighting, gun work and all out bloodshed that always looks effective that I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the madness.
Sometimes the POV nature of it all gets too hectic and with all the cuts and speedy movements, a headache comes on trying to keep up. There are times it feels a little messy and in the middle the dumb nonsense of Jimmy and his split personalities drags out and gets too much, even drifting into a fun yet pointless musical number as Jimmy sings to Henry through many changing guises. Also, on a more immersive note, none of the characters are substantial enough and you don’t truly care for any of them, not even Henry making it a sliver away from being just a new filming experience and not a film.
Darya Charusha’s music is awesome and lifts the film to the thrilling craziness it needs to. It blasts in and cuts out frequently adding a comedic spin as Henry reloads or gets up before the score hits back again. Then there’s the stupid yet amazing use of Queen rocketing out the speakers for a fight scene that demonstrates the bat s**t crazy tone of this movie.
Sharlto Copley seems to have a whirl playing Jimmy and Jimmy and Jimmy and so on. It does grow a tad tiresome yes but his acting as the British sergeant is a spiffingly good show. Haley Bennett isn’t the damsel in distress or sexy siren, she’s just a beginning aid for Henry and then admittedly a good surprise third act appearance. Danila Kozlovsky does his best to steal the show, his Lucius Malfoy look and penchant for spieling like a camp and deranged psycho helps him become the ridiculous villain that he is.
Like ‘Crank’ on acid, which says something, this POV movie is sometimes gimmicky and messy but I have to say I found myself grinning like a fool multiple times.