Hardcore Henry (2016)
Directed by Ilya Naishuller
When you watch “Hardcore Henry,” the word that comes to mind is “breakneck”—first to describe the constant and dizzying speed of the first-person GoPro camerawork, but then to describe the brutal, physical violence which unfolds before your eyes as though you were the perpetrator. If you were waiting for something innovative to come out of Hollywood, this is it.
You wake up in a vat of goo, you remember nothing, and you’re missing a couple of limbs. But then a woman (Haley Bennet) appears. She says she’s your wife, and she attaches robotic limbs to your stumps. You have super strength. Cool. But now the lab is being raided by a creep named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and his thuggish Russian goons. And he takes your wife. You escape with the help of a man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who tells you your mission: to save your wife and stop Akan from creating an army of obedient man-bots. Can you accomplish your mission in time?
Worn by a combination of people—including stuntmen, cameramen, and even writer-director Ilya Naishuller—the GoPro headset which shoots the first-person action is the real hero in “Hardcore Henry.” It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the history of film. But if this plot sounds a little like a video game, you’re not far off. In fact, “Hardcore Henry” might feel a little too much like a video game, with its segmented missions and dizzying and often disorienting POV action—not to mention the fact that our main character can’t talk. But that’s not all bad. Your heart pounds when bad guys aim their guns straight at you. Adrenaline pumps when you’re giving chase through the streets of Moscow, using your newfound parkour skills to scale bridges and jump over fences. In fact, it might take a while to readjust to normal action movies, where you’re no longer the hero. Even with subpar acting performances (the reliably good Copley is live-wiry fun, but otherwise there are no takeaways) and a thin plot (it’s not unlike “Memento” meets “Deadpool,” actually), “Hardcore Henry” becomes a visceral, unique experience like one you won’t see again in an action movie for a long, long time. I challenge you to find a more badass movie this year.
You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore—and if “Hardcore Henry” has one thing going for it, it’s that is it most certainly way hardcore.