So what may have seemed like an impossible dream to some has finally come true. What would it feel like to look through the eyes of the hero? Well Russian director Ilya Naishuller has made that dream a reality. Also as the lead singer of his band Biting Elbows, the concept first came to be through two music videos entitled “Stampede” and “Bad Motherfucker”. Both went viral for their use of effects, violence, and over all bad-ass action. The use of the first-person perspective is not something new, but when it is done to the extremes as much as Hardcore Henry, it can be quite an exhilarating ride.
Henry wakes up in a tank of water inside a laboratory with a scientist at his care. His memory is completely gone, along with his voice, and some of his limbs. As she attaches robotic replacements, the woman reveals herself to be Estelle (Haley Bennet), Henry’s wife. Just as Henry starts to get his bearings, the research lab is under attack by a telekinetic mad man known as Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and his group of mercenaries looking to abduct Henry. After a daring escape from an airship, Estelle is kidnapped by the mercenaries, and Henry is on the run. Not long after, he is aided in his journey by a man called Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who shows Henry how to stay alive, and what it takes to fight back against the megalomaniacal Akan.
It has to be said that Hardcore Henry is something exceptional in terms of the stunts, effects, and overall insanity on offer here. It is not afraid to shy away from any violence, in fact it is one of the most violent action films I have seen in some time. Surprisingly it also has some humorous moments from both Copley and the films silent protagonist which just adds more to the films let-loose attitude. The film itself is just a barrage of non-stop action from the word go, only slightly stopping for a moment or two just to give the viewers an idea of what is actually happening.
However, although the film can be a lot of fun, there are several things which can be very off-putting. The down side of the first-person perspective is the constant shaking of the camera, which some people who dislike the found footage genre may have a problem here. At times it can be quite nauseating, disjointing, and a bit difficult to see certain moments of action. Also, there is little to no exposition as to who any of these people are. Jimmy explains certain elements of the plot here and there but at times it is hard to feel anything for the characters when there is nothing to go on for any of them.
In saying that though, it is still extremely impressive work. It is one action set piece after another and they are truly thrilling. It’s all ludicrous and bonkers, filled with plenty of what the fuck moments, a heaping amount of gore and violence, just in case you didn’t get enough of it, and my heart could not stop racing when those credits rolled. A great Friday night movie.