Sex, drugs, violence, and rock and roll are words that accurately describe Hardcore Henry’s theme. Hardcore Henry, directed by Ilya Naishuller and starring Sharito Copley, Hayley Bennett, Tim Roth, and Danila Kozlovsky, is a psychedelic and violent ride through the eyes of a determined cyborg trying to save his wife from an evil warlord. Along the way, Henry meets scientific horrors, Russian mercenaries, weapon-clad dominatrices, and a lot of guns.
The initial appeal of Hardcore Henry is that it is filmed completely from the first-person perspective. The audience is Henry, which is visually very engrossing. First-person films are not new, but most of them tend to be horror films. Sadly, this use of the first-person perspective does not turn out as well as the director envisioned it. It really only comes to good use in a few action scenes. For the most part, it was simply gimmicky and frankly nauseating to watch. It is difficult to watch this film without getting a headache. At least realizing that Hardcore Henry needs a break from this constant motion sickness, the director introduced a few slower, more comedic sections to give the audience a much needed rest.
The story of Hardcore Henry is totally irrelevant. Nobody cares about whether or not Henry will save his wife or defeat the bad guy. What people come to the theater to see, and what director Naishuller desires, is as many over-the-top action sequences as possible. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into this action film. This can be overwhelming at times, but it aims to please the adrenaline junkies in the audience. Henry is a conveniently silent protagonist, giving the audience a better feeling of being inside the film. However, this makes Henry a totally boring character, since the audience can’t even see his facial expressions and or physical gestures save for his arm movements. I almost wish the film took the perspective of another character, such as Jimmy (Copley), who had such an interesting backstory and demented characterization that he stole the show whenever he appeared. The film might as well have been called Hardcore Jimmy, because he ends up being much more “hardcore” than Henry.
The beginning of the film was slow and awkward, eventually stumbling on the point of being funny and over the top. Towards the middle and end of the film, there were definitely some fun action sequences and funny moments sprinkled throughout. The music however, was action-packed fun from beginning to end, with rock and roll blaring as Henry takes on some of the most ridiculous action scenarios. The sound work in this film is top quality, from bullets whizzing by Henry’s head and explosions left and right, to car crashes and intense fistfights where the audience can hear bones breaking and muscles ripping.
Overall, there is not much to be said about Hardcore Henry. It is a disorienting, over-the-top action film, but at least it has fun. If anything, it is a great popcorn flick that you can watch with some of your friends.