Big Screen Gaming: Our Review of Hardcore Henry

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 08, 2016
Big Screen Gaming: Our Review of Hardcore Henry

Often fans and critics talk of great thrilling films as ‘roller coaster rides,’ but never before has that description been more accurate for a particular movie. Hardcore Henry is a tough watch for a lot of reasons, most of them rather unique to the big screen, including the fact that it literally feels like you’re riding a 90-minute roller coaster, punctuated by a few lulls, but driven by intensity and packed with some headaches and nausea.

Violence and bloodshed are commonplace, but as an audience we’re pretty well accustomed to that, and with the alliterative adjective in the title, it should be expected.

The novelty here is that this film by Ilya Naishuller is shot entirely from the first person point of view, making this action adventure like something out of a video game that is at once bizarre and jarring, and later increasingly exhausted.

Dizzying too, surreal, strange, and even funny.

Our titular hero slowly awakes as the film begins, and by the convention, we do too. We are Henry (and not Henrietta perhaps, as the director noted a man is more relatable in an action movie, but that’s another conversation). He and we are greeted by a beautiful nurse who explains that he and we are only in fact sort of a man. A portion of the arm and leg (which often come into view) are robotic, and apparently what we’re seeing isn’t necessary through normal eyes, but some sort of cybernetic as it were. He also can’t talk.

This conceit allows Henry (who is played by various stuntmen) to indeed do some hardcore things as he journeys along a  singular quest for vengeance. Its unclear how he got where he was, but a villain quickly presents himself, one who has some special powers, and when the beautiful nurse who happens to be Henry’s wife is taken, we’re off! Jumping off buildings, fighting in hallways, riding on motorcycles, and trying to wrangle horses.

Aided by a comically and slightly mad agent Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), Henry navigates scene after scene of violent frenzy and chaos, only momentarily taking time off to give the audience some rest. It’s needed too, because regardless of how comfortable you are with the madness, and no matter how well the filmmakers have tried to stabilize the camera, it’s a visceral experience. Especially when Henry is confined to what becomes a claustrophobic nightclub; the thumping music blares there, as it does throughout the film.

There isn’t much time to think, but those who fancy video games with have a strange feeling of familiarly. It’s a first person shooter movie, and all the gimmicks are there. It’s not just the look though that recalls that platform, but the way in which the story and action unfolds. It’s a simple plot, and revelations are slowly made but Henry is an object of force. A couple twists aren’t really, mainly because we’ve really no idea what is going on anyway. He moves forwards and destroys what’s in his path; bystanders are quickly and endlessly anonymous, and the body count is very high.


For its faults and challenges, Henry is still unique, albeit a novelty. I’m not sure watching it on the biggest screen possible is the way to go, and depending on your stomach, you may need a break. Be prepared.

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