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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hardcore Henry (Blu-ray)
Hardcore Henry (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // July 26, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted July 17, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I often say that if you set out to make a good movie and fail, the results can be miserable, but you can also set out to make a bad movie and succeed. The point being is whether the former or the latter, the component of ownership by the cast and crew and owning the story you're trying to tell is important in it. And when one does a first person perspective action film like Hardcore Henry, ownership becomes a fairly easy prospect.

Hardcore Henry was written and directed by Ilya Naishuller, who did a similar short film called Biting Elbows: Bad Motherfucker. The short grabbed so much attention that Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) wanted to help produce the film with Naishuller, and Naishuller launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to finish post-production on the film. The film unfolds through Henry's eyes, and Henry is resurrected, put back together in a lab by his wife, with no memory of what happened to him. The lab is attacked and Henry and his wife flee, and the rest of the film is Henry fighting off the people trying to kill him, which is generally unsuccessful because he is a badass super soldier, while he tries to find out his memories.

Along with its first-person perspective, Hardcore Henry is violent and bloody, indulgently and unabashedly so. I don't say that as a cautionary sentence or anything, but when a guy has a brick thrown at his head in slow motion within the first three minutes of the movie, during the opening credits (and that was one of the tamer sequences in said title sequence), it's a sign of what you're going to get.

And what you get is a pretty fun damn movie. You've probably seen the trailer by now, but if not, go see it, which is basically three minutes of dizzying fighting, flipping and shooting set to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" (that song appears in the film in the third act and it's as every bit as fun as you'd hope). It tells you everything about the film, and you're probably going to be in or out based on that. It's as close to a retelling of a video game as I can recall recently, down to the POV and the mysterious villain. It also has an ally for Henry who you see often in Jimmy (Sharlto Copley, Chappie), whose backstory may be a touch convoluted, but without his presence in the film, you'd likely get seasick. Jimmy also serves as a kindred spirit of sorts, someone in a similar situation fighting this mysterious figure named Akan, who wants to create a bunch of super troopers like Henry.

In terms of comfort, Hardcore Henry owns its gimmick remarkably well, both in terms of being put behind its protagonist's eyes, but more importantly, you check your skepticism early on. For the ways that people die and avoid death, for the way the final battle ends, all that stuff is over the top, Naishuller and the viewer are both aware that it's over the top, but you go along for the ride because it's a fun ride.

With portions of "Half-Life" mixed in with a pinch of RoboCop, all within a beautiful, chaotic snow globe of a Russian dash cam video, Hardcore Henry delivers on the energy from Naishuller's short and from previews others have seen of the film. There will be other films that are going to be better told or executed in other ways in 2016, but you're going to be hard pressed to find anything as fast-paced and as enjoyable as Hardcore Henry.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

The 1.85:1 widescreen presentation Universal gives Hardcore Henry is fine. I mean, your movie is almost exclusively shot on GoPro cameras mounted on a helmet of sorts, and there isn't any post-production image enhancement that's of note. Flesh tones look fine, and the reds and blues from a light in the lab early on have a bit of noise to them. The image is devoid of any abundant or consistent detail and generally, what you see is what you get.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track sets the stage early and often with "Let Me Down Easy" in the opening credits sounding clean before leaping into the low end with powerful explosions that the subwoofer engages in frequently. Fight scenes have channel panning and directional effects that put you in the middle of the action, and the ample amounts of techno (this IS a Russian production after all) pulse throughout the theater. The adrenaline packed into the film is easily conveyed in the audio.

Extras:

Naishuller does two commentaries, one with Copley and one without. The solo one is far more informative, as he recounts some of the arguments with Russian police that he had during shooting, how he landed Copley and some thoughts about the cast, and spotting their visibility in Russian entertainment. He gets into some shot breakdown and decisions he made with the story (and how the ending was rewritten), and spots things he had to pay for out of pocket. At one point he characterizes the commentary as therapy and for a track by his lonesome, it's very good. The one with Copley mainly focuses on how impressed Copley was with the Russian stuntmen, and how this was different than most of his films, while Naishuller covers a lot of the same ground in his first track. It's fine, just not as good. The only other extras are four deleted scenes (7:57), one which includes a different fight sequence. Naishuller and Copley also answer fan questions from the film's Facebook page (12:25), including favorite fights, favorite scenes and whatnot.

Final Thoughts:

I don't think Hardcore Henry takes itself seriously, and lets you know early on that you shouldn't either. Once you take that into consideration, it becomes a truck of fun, as a first person filmed movie should be. Technically it isn't pretty but the audio is a treat, and the extras are fine, particularly the Naishuller solo commentary. Seek out Hardcore Henry, sit down, press play, and enjoy.

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