Action, Akan, Call of Duty, Cinema, Danila Kozlovsky, District 9, Elijah Wood, Film, Film Review, Haley Bennett, Hardcore Henry, Ilya Naishuller, Maniac, Movie Review, Review, Science Fiction, Sharlto Copley, The Equalizer, Violence
“Hardcore Henry” is a low-budget action movie directed by Ilya Naishuller; starring Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) and Haley Bennett (“The Equalizer”). The film is shot almost entirely from a first-person perspective, as the audience views ultra-violence and gore through the eyes of the protagonist. It’s an interesting experiment, and one that works incredibly well in my opinion, particularly because it makes the excessive violence which takes place feel more realistic, a feature which surprisingly makes that violence more palatable.
I should point out that this isn’t the first movie of its kind – “Maniac” immediately springs to my mind when I think of other gory first-person films – but I’m pretty sure that most people won’t have seen a film quite like this one. Personally, I think that it can only be a good thing that films like this are being made, because I am getting sick and tired of seeing the same movie over and over again rehashed with a slight variation on a theme.
“Hardcore Henry” revolves around the titular character as he attempts to track down and kill Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a telekinetic mercenary whose main ambition seems to be to cause pain and misery wherever he goes. (I’m guessing that this is his goal, because what he actually wants is never properly explained). At the start of the film Akan interrupts a procedure which is intended to give Henry a voice and also takes his wife (Estelle, played by Haley Bennett) hostage, which puts Henry on a murderous path as he attempts to track down and kill as many of Akan’s henchmen as possible, with the help of a mysterious stranger known as Jimmy (Sharlto Copley).
This is only a brief summary of what happens in the film, but it might be clear at this point that the plot of “Hardcore Henry” isn’t exactly ground-breaking. Still, this isn’t necessarily a problem for a film with so much action, because whilst it can be predictable, and there are one or two things that remain unexplained when the end credits roll, this is something of a relief for a film which is already very hectic. Spending too much time explaining character backstories would eat into the time that Henry spends slaughtering his enemies, and would probably weaken the film as a whole. The only reason that anyone should pay to see this film is to watch Henry shoot first and ask questions later, so personally I don’t take much issue with the fact that he does a lot of the former and then forgets to do the latter.
There will be certain viewers who find the excessive violence which takes place during “Hardcore Henry” both unnecessary and abhorrent, but if those same people saw the trailer and still went to see the film then they only have themselves to blame. Yes, it’s true that this film isn’t for the faint hearted – the opening credits feature slow motion shots of people being stabbed with broken glass after all – but that was clear on the trailer and this kind of thing happens all the time in action movies, it’s just that normally the reality of the situation is swept under the rug for the squeamish masses. People get blown up, shot, and stabbed all the time in films and television, it just doesn’t happen as honestly as it does in this movie.
I for one loved the way that violence was depicted in this film, because it was real and visceral but also felt strangely disconnected from reality. The fact that “Hardcore Henry” is filmed from a first-person perspective ensures that audience members feel the impact of each kill and see exactly what murder entails – it isn’t all flashy and cool like it seems when you see a slick 12A spy movie. It’s vicious, personal, and very ugly.
Nonetheless, Henry is a super-human killing machine who probably murders 200+ people over the course of the film, so you can’t feel significantly connected to any of his victims. You get a front row seat to the violence and brutality that takes place, which makes it all the more compelling, but emotionally you’re as numb to it as you would be if you were playing a game of “Call of Duty”, so you don’t have to feel bad about the fact that various creative kills are incredibly funny.
Aside from the way that this film is shot and the ultra-violence which it depicts, the performances are all pretty good, and I thought that the music blended with the action perfectly. Sharlto Copley is excellent as the eccentric Jimmy, (particularly in a musical number that I really wasn’t expecting), and Haley Bennett is likeable enough to make you route for Henry. Moreover, the music gives the whole thing a playful feel, as high-tempo rock ballads play over the top of chase scenes, stopping and starting every so often depending on whether or not Henry has the upper hand.
Overall, the whole film just works really well, and although the story isn’t very thoughtful it’s still as solid as is required to ensure that the action is impactful. You want Henry to succeed because Akan is clearly a nasty piece of work, and you also want him to save Estelle even though she doesn’t get a lot of screen time, so you’re constantly invested in the action that’s taking place. At the same time you don’t feel that Henry is ever in any real danger, because the film is all about him and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, so you’re able to support his survival whilst also enjoying his murderous rampage. “Hardcore Henry” probably isn’t for everyone, but if you like action sequences which are well-choreographed and completely ridiculous then I would heartily recommend it.