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Hardcore Henry

Other (International) // R // April 8, 2016
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 30, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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 Copely, 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.



Highly Recommended

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