Review: Hardcore Henry (2016)

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Everyone has an ideal paradigm; for a previous colleague of mine, the first person perspective was clearly that view. On numerous occasions, his pronounced zeal for the popular mode of gaming was clear but during a discussion of video game movies and their less than stellar output, this gentleman indicated that he was actually a fan of the ill fated 2005 cinematic retelling of genre godfather, Doom. While readily admitting that it didn’t have the best plot or acting (of course I had to chime in that it also was the loosest adaptation since Alone in the Dark) he noted that his favorite portion was the segment where the Steadicam literally went into first person perspective and audiences experienced a Panavision recreation of an FPS entry, right at the dawn of the 7th generation of gaming where the gap between reality and fantasy was increasingly diminished and the lines began to blur beyond all previous possibility. My old cubicle chum summarized his stance by declaring that his greatest hope was one day a full length film would embody this full speed ahead.

That film is Hardcore Henry…and it’s a hell of a ride.

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The plot is simple; our protagonist awakes in a sky laboratory high above Russia to a woman claiming to be his wife, scientists hoping to piece him back together and a Revok meets Swan kingpin that just wants him dead. As he crashes to Earth without voice, memory or direction and with his wife kidnapped by a madman, an adventure through the eyes of our hero begins and is absolutely relentless. The rest of the story, while paper thin is better left unsaid so there is more to enjoy as accompaniment to the non-stop rush on screen as Henry goes through an unfathomable amount of pain, confusion, injury and death to uncover the truth. Throughout his journey, he meets many foes and a few friends the latter of whom is embodied in Jimmy, played masterfully by Sharlto Copley. His performance pretty much made the movie for me and I’d watch his bevy of hilarious, home run antics anytime. Paired with top notch gore, hyperkinetic parkour sequences and dazzling fight choreography, there were more than a few times I truly felt I was in the moment.

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Speaking of which, for all its bombast and outright enjoyable presentation the unfortunate downside is that like most genre fare these days, the adrenaline rush wears off and a second dose likely won’t be desired for some time, if ever again. On a positive note, Hardcore Henry actually may invite repeated viewings because there literally is so much going on, one could have the slow motion button on quick draw and still miss a ton. While I can’t imagine watching this on a regular basis, I’d give it another go. For many other filmgoers who felt queasy during The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and other found footage favorites are sure to be turning their popcorn container into a barf bag as the intensity rarely every lets up from dizzying heights to lighting fast jump cuts. In my screening, other patrons looking away or holding their stomachs was not uncommon but as someone who doesn’t particularly love 3D upgrades or IMAX excursions due to vinyl peripheral vertigo, I was able to keep my food down and head up.

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So, is this the debut of a new age of cinema for a generation that has gorged on GoPro, next gen gaming and the next great thing? In some very distinct ways, yes but for any bystanders not weaned the same way aren’t going to find the a landmark like Sin City,  The Matrix, Kill Bill or visual style vortex of the 21st century that might be hoped for. Still, for my former colleague and anyone looking for a new and exciting perspective for the action industry who couldn’t get enough of The Raid, Crank and the Fast & Furious series – Hardcore Henry may well be the face(less) future of the genre.

Hardcore Henry opens in theaters Friday, April 8th

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  • Adam Rutkowski

    Oh man, I’m totally jealous. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see this because I don’t think Ann has any interest. I might have to sneak out some afternoon while she’s at work. I enjoyed the flawed movie FPS but Hardcore Henry looks like it takes it where it needs to be with enough Crank-esq furiously. I’m all about it.

    • yeah I didn’t see this either, Kirby went solo on this one. Looks interesting for sure.