Hardcore Henry (2015)

First they made him dangerous. Then they made him mad.

If you enjoy first-person shooters then Hardcore Henry is certainly for you! Mixing the best elements from the Call of Duty video game series with the satirical Robocop (1987) and the high-voltage Crank (2006-09) films, this Moscow-based shoot ‘em up surely knows how to get the adrenaline pumping. So, to begin, who’s Hardcore Henry? Well, the answer is simple: he is you, he’s me, he’s anyone who straps in for the ride, we see what he sees and therefore he could essentially be anybody!

'Hey, wanna co-op?'
‘Hey, wanna co-op?’

Presented through the eyes of our protagonist, Hardcore Henry follows an amnesiac victim who’s been brought back to life as a robotically enhanced super soldier. The flick opens up like a video game introduction with you, the ‘player,’ regaining consciousness in a laboratory with your hot scientist wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), by your side. She debriefs you and tells you that your name is Henry, however, you have no memory of anything else. To make matters worse, you find out that your speech module has yet to be installed. Then ‘BANG!’ a group of cold-hearted mercenaries shoot up the building and take your beloved hostage. Who’s behind the kidnapping? Some albino madman with telekinetic powers named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) who’s hell bent on taking over the world. Whatcha gonna do? Get her back of course and nothing’s gonna get in your way!

Like most good first-person shooters, the story of Hardcore Henry isn’t all that important as the flick is more focused on delivering blood-soaked kills, reaching those hard-to-get-to checkpoints and equipping the most kickass weapons, over and above anything else. There’s no ‘pause’ button either boys and girls as Henry fights his way through hordes of identity-stripped goons, guys with flamethrowers, tanks and Russian thugs, our hardcore hero finding new and inventive ways to take them down. Helping him along the way is the mysterious Jimmy (Sharlto Copley on steroids), who acts as kinda a guide, this enigmatic fellow constantly getting himself killed and then respawning again as vastly different versions of himself (thanks to his cloning technology) — one minute he’s a sniper in a ghillie suit, the next he’s belting out Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin.’ My personal favorite is Copley’s awfully posh but bloodthirsty WW2 Colonel.

'I'd love to drill you with my nuts and bolts!'
‘I’d love to drill you with my nuts and bolts!’

Hardcore Henry doesn’t give a s@#t about narrative, let alone character depth or development (casting Sharlto Copley in multiple roles is proof of this), however what the film lacks in plot it certainly makes up for in its distinctive game-like visual style. See, every major set piece has been designed to play out like a dynamic gaming stage — there’s a sniper bit (without the quickscoping), a heart-pounding fetch quest, a high-octane car chase (alongside some dominatrix bikers) and a ripper escort mission where Henry is tasked with chaperoning a quadriplegic Jimmy out of his compromised compound. Elsewhere, both the death-defying stunt work and bone-crunching fight choreography are ultra-impressive — fun fact, Henry was actually played by ten different stunt men — while the VFX, practical and special make-up effects are flat-out awesome.

Programmed by Ilya Naishuller, and born from the ‘Bad Motherf@#%r’ music video he directed for his indie rock band Biting Elbows, Hardcore Henry makes for a helluva feature debut. Shot entirely on GoPro mobile cameras, the flick really looks and feels like a FPS come to life, where hyper-violent action and gratuitous nudity know no bounds. Sure the first-person point-of-view thing gets a little dizzying at times but the found-footage aesthetic actually works here.

'Only 99 bullets left. Better reload.'
‘Only 99 bullets left. Better reload.’

At the end of the day, you’ll know whether this one’s for you long before Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ starts pumping, Henry going all out cray-cray as he dukes it out against an army of cyborg militants! Bold, violent and inventively unique, Hardcore Henry might be devoid of any real substance but this gamer’s wet dream … ahem, I mean movie … sure as hell makes for a ludicrously fun time. With a sky-high onscreen body count upwards of a hundred, who can resist this bad boy?

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Hardcore Henry is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia