“Hardcore Henry” is a cinematic adventure. The opening credits start to roll, and what plays is very violent and bloody and is comparable to the opening of a James Bond movie.
We then receive a snippet of what we can assume is Henry’s past. (Henry was played by many stuntmen and directors, including the film’s main director IIya Naishuller) wakes up to a woman telling him that he’s been in a horrible accident, that he has amnesia and that she is his wife. She also gives Henry cybernetic limbs and implants so that he is able to move around and function.
Henry, or ‘You’ are then attacked by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) a mysterious mad-man with telekinetic abilities, who also alludes he may have been the reason you were brought back to life and that the facility is his. Henry and Estelle flee the facility (which turns out to be in the sky) via escape pod and fall directly onto a highway in Moscow. Estelle is kidnapped by Akan’s men waiting below, and a strange man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) assists Henry in his fight against Akan, his men and the rescue of Estelle.
Kozlovsky plays an interesting villain, as he is thrown at you in the very beginning of the film. What makes him stand out from the rest of his men are his telekinetic powers, and extreme murderous intent. But aside from a few scenes sprinkled in, you don’t see Akan much through the film as Henry has very little interaction with him, unless he’s threatening your life. Kozlovsky plays the crazy, all-powerful villain well, with his demented behavior and general disregard for his men and others.
Bennett is overall a very bland character, the stereotypical “damsel in distress,” and while she does play a vital point in the films plot, her personality and demeanor are very boring.
The real gem of the movie is Sharlto Copley. Copley’s character, Jimmy, offers assistance to Henry throughout the movie. Jimmy appears to us in many forms, such as Cokehead Jimmy, Awkward Jimmy, Bum Jimmy and many more. Copley adopts many different personalities as Jimmy and really shows his versatility as an actor, whether it be snorting coke off of strippers or repairing Henry’s cybernetics. Jimmy also provides Henry with vital information concerning Akan, as he is bent on getting his own revenge against Akan.
The first-person point of view (POV) is not new, but it is definitely an uncommon type of filming. First-person POV allows the audience to become immersed in the film because the audience plays Henry. You feel as though you experience every jump, every punch, every injury and every interaction with another person. It’s definitely an awesome experience.
From a gamer’s perspective, this movie is satisfying to watch. The movie takes you to many different places all within Moscow and its surrounding areas and it feels as though the audience is traversing the terrain with Henry looking for its main objective. It also appears to play homage to many different video games.
Like Faith from “Mirror’s Edge,” Lara Croft from the “Tomb Raider” series and Nathan Drake from the “Uncharted” series, Henry parkours across Russia. He scales buildings, jumps on cars and motorcycles and uses various weapons he find or picks up from fallen enemies to defend himself. “Hardcore Henry” feels like a very fast-paced video game campaign, similar to the “Call of Duty” series or the “Doom” series, with Henry tackling each new mission to reach the end game objective and finally face Akan.
When Henry does finally face Akan, it’s on top of a large rooftop (very iconic to movies and video games). Before facing Akan, Henry must face other cyborgs (mindless ones) They attack Henry in a swarm, and he’s forced to fight them off, much like in the “Left 4 Dead” series. Once the cyborgs are defeated, Henry must face Akan. Akan then unleashes the full extent of his telekinetic abilities, which makes it seem like the final boss fight in any game where the player must fight the boss when they are at their most powerful.
While “Hardcore Henry” has a lot going for it, it does fail in certain areas. The story itself is very “meh,” with not too many surprises or major plot twists. Another aspect that is very strange is that Akan actually has telekinetic powers. Literally no one else in the entirety of the movie has them, just him. There’s no explanation or anything, Akan just shows up, throws some people around and we are expected to just accept it.
In addition, “Hardcore Henry” is only for a specific niche of movie-goers. It’s definitely for those who enjoy going to a movie theatre and having the entire movie theatre experience.
On a big screen, “Hardcore Henry” provides the audience with an immersive, action-packed escapade. There have been rumors that “Hardcore Henry” may cause motion sickness, and my local theatre had signs warning people of this. While not experiencing motion sickness myself, it’s understandable how someone else might, as the movie is in nearly constant motion and is very fast-paced.
“Hardcore Henry” is a fresh and new experience. First-person POV is an interesting take on movies, and will hopefully continued to be explored, as it allows the audience to be immersed into the movie. It’s not a very long movie, which allows you to power through the “meh” story and enjoy the bloody and violent combat and skillful parkour performed throughout.