Okay guys, time for some tough love. Do yourself a favor and stop reading now. Don’t waste a single second of your life even reading about an artistically bankrupt, witless turkey like Hardcore Henry. Just take my emphatic thumbs down at face value, and go on about your lives content in knowing you’re smarter for not having suffered through this turd.
Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Here goes…
Hardcore Henry is what can only be called a gimmick film. Gimmick films are nothing new. There are single-take movies like Rope or Birdman (which both faked it), and Russian Ark or Timecode, both of which did not. 3D is an old gimmick that has made a comeback as of late. Black & white/color photography can be used as a gimmick, whether in a classic like The Wizard of Oz or a more contemporary movie like Pleasantville. There are plenty of variations out there – Unfriended was a chat session calling itself a horror movie. Who Framed Roger Rabbit combined live action and animated characters and sets. In 1985 movie theaters had remote controls at every seat so viewers could vote who they thought the killer was in the underrated comic gem, Clue. Terminator: Salvation took a big chance on a ponderous gimmick when they cast a 6 foot piece of wood as its lead. Then James Cameron out-gimmicked the same damn gimmick by animating that lumber. And let us not forgot the single biggest gimmick of the last 20 years, the fucking found footage film. Well, Hardcore Henry‘s contribution to film gimmicks is that it is all told in first person point of view. The audience sees what the protagonist sees, from his angle, and nothing else. Now, if you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s sounds really interesting” you’d be wrong. Hardcore Henry is hardcore shit. My apologies to all varieties of shit, the world round. Hardcore Henry gives shit a bad name. That’s how shitty it is.
Hold up – just so we’re clear – “underrated comic gem, Clue” was not tongue-in-cheek. Seriously, watch it again some time. It’s hilarious.
Hardcore Henry, I suppose, could be labeled an Experimental Film. If that experiment is, “let’s see what happens if we remove plot, character, theme, cinematography, editing, writing, performance and all basic elements of logic, coherence and artistic merit.” It’s an experiment in spinning a limited-use gimmick into 96 minutes of nauseating violence and lazy visuals. To quote Roger Ebert, I hated hated hated hated this film. From the abject cynicism so prominently on display in every scene to the contempt the filmmakers seem to hold for the audience’s intelligence, Hardcore Henry is a failure on every level. Here’s a short list of HH’s numerous problems:
- First person point of view grows tedious after a few minutes, torture thereafter.
- The protagonist cannot talk. For real.
- The villain has telekinesis for some reason that is never explained.
- There are unmotivated jumps cuts in the edit periodically, apparently because the director couldn’t figure out a reasonable way to get his main character from point A to point B.
- Sharlto Copley, while amusing, plays an endlessly murdered, then returning character (who can at least talk), each with a different personality, accent and attire for no good reason at all. Yes, like a video game where you get several lives to cash in before the game is over.
- SPOILER ALERT!!!! – the protagonist’s wife, who he’s been trying to save the whole time, ISN’T REALLY HIS WIFE! – for what reason? who gives a shit.
- He kills the bad guy in the end. With his bare hands. Remember the part before about telekinesis? Stupid, stupid climax.
- Tons of hyper-kinetic action we as an audience can’t see.
- Tons of murder and mayhem affecting would-be characters nobody cares about anyway.
- Some bullshit about memory implants. I guess. Hell, I don’t know.
- Holy shit, was that Tim Roth in a glorified cameo? Yes, it was. Poor fucker.
- Watching someone play a first person shooter video game IS BORING.
- Did they really use Go Pro cameras? Yes, they did. And it looks like murky shit on the big screen.
- THE GUY DOESN’T TALK!
I’d rather watch Nell (do not click this link unless you want to smash your computer screen in with a brick) on repeat for a month straight than sit through HH again. I’d rather be Nell.
If you think HH is right up your alley, it’s not. Watch Crank again. Hell, watch Crank 2 again. Or better yet, check out John Wick. Now that’s how you make an ultra-violent action movie. It’s like going to the goddamn ballet. Where all the dancers die horribly.
p.s. The one redeeming value of having sat through 96 minutes of visual hell, is that I sat through it as the SXSW film festival in Austin. How Hardcore Henry ended up as a headlining film along with such thoughtful flicks like Midnight Special, Everybody Wants Some and In a Valley of Violence, I’ll never know.
p.p.s. One of HH’s producers, Timur Bekmambetov, directed two Russian films from an aborted trilogy, Night Watch and Day Watch that also had a gimmick, although this one was actually pretty interesting. He weaved the English subtitles into the narrative of the story. Hard to describe, but worth a look, particularly if you like urban fantasy and hyper-stylized visuals. Of course, he then cashed in whatever goodwill he earned with those two by directing Wanted (only redeeming value is Chris Pratt being very Chris Pratt-ish in a tiny role) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a movie almost as stunningly stupid as Hardcore Henry.