REVIEW: Action Visuals In ‘Hardcore Henry’ Don’t Carry Film Far Enough

“Hardcore Henry” is the first feature movie helmed by Russian filmmaker Ilya Naishuller and takes place entirely through a first person perspective.

Right from the start, the gimmick the movie is utilizing is apparent. From the moment the lights go down to when the credits roll, the picture plays out just like a first person shooter game would.

Regarding the story, the movie opens the plot is set in motion very quickly. The main character Henry wakes up in some type of special facility and learns he’s a part man and part machine. After the quick realization, he comes into contact with the movie’s villain Akan (played by Danila Kozlovsky) who plans to use creations like Henry for nefarious purposes.

From that point, the movie plays out in a race against time type manner, Henry trying to stop Akan’s plan while being chased down by henchmen and at the same time getting aid from a man named Jimmy (played by Sharlto Copley).

Looking at “Hardcore Henry” from a technical standpoint, it’s quite a marvel. The editing made the action feel continuous and many of the sequences never come off as choppy. The camera work was also handled well for the most part and captured some incredible stunt work in many of the combat and chase scenes.

Speaking of chase scenes, “Henry” features two of the best since last year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.” One chase was on foot and the other took place with vehicles and both were quick and exciting. Helping out in these scenes was the unique visual style of having the whole thing be in a first person viewpoint which put an audience right in the middle of the action.

With all that said, though, the gimmick of being filmed entirely like a first person shooter game started to become tiring as more minutes ticked by. The main reason for this is the rather weak storytelling the picture featured.

The fact is, the movie didn’t have much of a story to boast. The entire thing feels as though it was written just to connect the dots enough to get Henry from point A to point B to point C. The whole movie can be summed up by action sequence, exposition from Jimmy and repeat until the film’s climax.

In terms of acting, the lone highlight is Sharlto Copley, who was able to have some fun with his role since the character he plays has, in a way, multiple personalities. Copley does as much as he can with this character, bringing another level of excitement to the film and providing the only depth the movie has to offer.

The same can’t be said for the rest of the acting, though. Kozlovsky is weak as a rather forgettable villain and Haley Bennett, who plays the love interest, is never truly convincing in any part of her role.

“Hardcore Henry” is certainly worth a watch for action fans and people who love FPS games, but the visuals only hold up for so long. Once the movie hits the hour mark, I was ready for it to be over.

Sure, the picture delivers some great looking action sequences, but I wouldn’t be willing to watch it again over other action flicks like “Die Hard” or even last year’s “Fury Road.” 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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