This is the first in what will hopefully become a series of text-based movie reviews. First up, Hardcore Henry:
Look, if you're coming to this Hardcore Henry review expecting a full-on serious meditation on film with measured critiques on its story and the thespian ability of its cast, I don't know what to tell you. If you've accepted that both of those components don't figure too prominently in this flick, let's continue.
As the promotional materials have suggested, Hardcore Henry takes place entirely from the first-person perspective of its title character filmed entirely using GoPro cameras as a tip of the hat to first-person shooter fans (Like the climax of Doom but good!). The film is a long chase of sorts with Henry escaping from the skybound lab he awakens to the streets of Moscow and the surrounding countryside. As such, when the action is firing on all cylinders, so is the film but when it isn't, it's usually an absolute drag as the movie sets up its next action set piece.
But where Hardcore Henry really excels is when it channels Mirror's Edge more than Call of Duty. The first-person shooter sequences are fine with a madcap gunfight in an abandoned building that looks like a used Expendables set being the particular standout but the parkour and free-running sequences are the set pieces that take the most advantage of the first-person perspective precisely because, as a remarkably low-budget feature, there's someone actually performing these stunts without the safety provisos of a big studio picture.
Obviously some edits and sequences are not exactly what they appear to be but some of the more notable ones (Landing on a motorcycle in the midst of a car chase, rappelling down the face of a building, engaging an enemy with a flamethrower) definitely are. As a sort of host to the proceedings is District 9's Sharlto Copley (Who also co-produced) ushering the protagonist through the events in a whole myriad of unhinged personas. If Spy Kids 3D had the Brotherhood of Evil Stallones, Hardcore Henry features the Legion of Sharlto Copleys each distinctly different from the last. I knocked the film in my opening paragraph for not having a whole hell of a lot of thespian cred (And outside of him, it definitely doesn't) but Copley is an absolute joy in the film and clearly having a blast as he elevates the material whenever he's on screen.
Less effective is the film's antagonist who basically fulfills the textbook definition of Eurotrash with long, bleached blonde hair, a thick accent, bad turtleneck, and an omnipresent sneer as he chews the scenery like an all you can eat buffet. Also, he has Force powers because why the hell not.
As a mainly Russian production, it features a lot of the tropes common in post-Soviet bloc cinema with graphic, unflinching violence, darkly lit cinematography, an electronic pulsating score, nihilistic undertones (And overtones, really), and a pitch black sense of humor. This is readily apparent from the stylized opening titles.
Hardcore Henry is an intense, brutal little flick (Though not without its own twisted sense of humor) that provides a very unique perspective (Pun somewhat intended) on the action genre. The story is perfunctory and whenever it focuses more on that instead of the action, it loses steam faster than a hot air balloon. Sharlto Copley injects some much-needed life into the flick with a wink and a raised middle finger (Sometimes literally). I don't know if this film will be heavily remembered for years to come but it does feel like an instant cult classic and offers a cool twist on the action genre, just don't expect too much outside of that core gimmick.
Category:First Impressions -- posted at: 1:04pm EST

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