Freshman director Ilya Naishuller challenged himself to direct a mindless, balls-to-the-wall action film in first person with a GoPro camera and tons of special effects.
Doesn’t sound hard, right?
The film isn’t selling itself on a storyline that entices the viewer. It’s simple: We see through the eyes of Henry (played by an actor that isn’t listed on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes) who gets reconstructed by his “wife” and scientist, Estelle (Haley Bennett). He gets a new, super-strong robotic left arm and left leg. To demonstrate Henry’s newfound strength, Estelle has him squeeze an apple and it explodes into pieces. It’s cute, but you wouldn’t hear Henry say that because his speech module isn’t working and won’t throughtout the film.
Now is when the action turns to 11. Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) breaches the doors of the laboratory in the sky and uses his kinetic power to throw around Henry and company. Blood everywhere, broken equipment and a getaway thanks to Estelle raising the volume of the heavy metal playing inside the room.
Speaking of music, this film was treated to plenty of techno instrumentals. The problem was none of it helped any of the action on the screen. Most of the score took me out of the film at moments. The final battle against the human-robot army crusaders? Horrible, bass-deprived techno.
The best part of “Hardcore Henry” is Shallot Copley‘s character, Jimmy, a crippled man at the hands of Akan who controls cloned machines of himself. Hippie Jimmy, Solider Jimmy, Hobo Jimmy, Coked-out Jimmy — they all worked well to break the action and make the audience laugh.
For the first 30 minutes, it was a fresh experience. It was a video game on the Silver Screen, practically. Although I didn’t get motion sickness, it gave my girlfriend a headache. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the poor characters or tired gimmick, though.
The second and third acts of the film reminded me I feel nothing for any character. Good action films will make you feel at least a tad bit attracted to any of the characters and their roles.
Nothing felt important when it came time to wrap the bow on the final fight with Akan. Why? Because Akan wasn’t built up to be an overbearing villain who makes me hate his guts. For all of the terrible things Akan did to Jimmy and Henry, and what he planned to do to the world, the final fight lasted a whole 3-5 minutes.
Three to 5 minutes for a fight that should’ve been the climax of the film? What a waste of time.
But the movie wasn’t a complete waste. There were fight scenes that included some of the most brutal deaths I’ve witnessed on-screen, which the first person view undoubtedly aided. A policeman’s testicles were grasped by Henry and he wasn’t asking him to cough.
Unfortunately, these cool scenes fizzed out by the hour mark. The audience was gasping and awe-struck , but by the middle of the movie nobody blurted anything. The early brutality desensitized the audience and resulted in being tired at the end.
Tired enough to wish the movie ended sooner.