“……. Shut up and take my money.” That was my first thought when the trailer ended for this one. Seriously, the movie looked like it would be shot completely in first person, like a video game. Plus, the brief glimpses into the stunts looked absolutely insane. If you couldn’t already tell, I was on board with this shit from the get-go. Of all the movies that came out this week, I was looking forward to this one the most. Anyway, shutting up now. This is my honest opinion of HARDCORE HENRY.
Shot entirely in first person. Henry is a voiceless victim of something that killed him…and in the process lost an arm and a leg. Luckily, he’s brought back to life by Estelle (Haley Bennett), a woman he can’t remember… who happens to be his wife. Giving Henry a cybernetic arm and leg, he has been given a second chance at life. Unfortunately, the happy times are cut short when someone begins attacking the lab they’re in. Revealed is the egotistical Akan (Daniela Kozlovsky), whom is revealed to have telekinetic abilities. Threatening everyone’s lives, Estelle takes action and gets Henry to safety, revealing that Akan owns everything and wants to create a cybernetic army of soldiers similar to Henry. However, escaping their flying labratory, they are quickly met with resistence from Akan’s men on the ground. Estelle is captured as Henry must stay alive with his one ally named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), fight Akan’s henchmen, and rescue Estelle.
DISCLAIMER: THIS MOVIE GOES CRAZY WITH SHAKY CAM. IF YOU ARE PRONE TO HEADACHES, DO NOT WATCH!!!
Now that we got that out of the way, FUCK YEAH, BIZNATCH!!! Yeah, I kinda liked it.
First off, trust the trailer. Seriously, this movie is shot entirely in first person (this is the third time I’ve mentioned that) and Henry does not speak at any point in the movie. But that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I didn’t look at this trailer expecting something story-driven. I wanted to see action, I wanted to see stunts, I wanted to see guns, I wanted to see blood and gore, I WANTED MY PENIS TO BE PANDERED!!! And you know what? Pandered it was. I got everything that I was hoping for in spades.
I’m not even sure if I can properly express what specifically I liked, which is not how I like to conduct my reviews, but I guess I gotta give it the ole college try, right?
As expected, the single takes are very well done. The way the scenes transition from one room to the next are very well executed. For example, one of the opening scenes is of Henry and Estelle escaping from Akan. Henry sees the marked exit door, naturally runs to it, and opens it. Then the door violently swings open and Henry is hanging on to that door handle for dear life, looks down, and we’re shown to be the clouds. The loudness (pretty sure that’s not a word) of the wind blowing past Henry really makes you feel like you’re in the air and about to fall and go splat. When they get inside their little escape pod and it nose-dives down, yeah, my stomach curled up and I was half tempted to throw my hands up in the air and scream. When Henry gets thrown off the side of a bridge and hits the car below him, I felt like my back really hurt. Damn, this was that kind of movie and I loved that shit.
I would also like to express my love of seeing Copley on film agaiin. I love this guy. Maybe CHAPPIE wasn’t the best movie ever, but his mocap work is undeniably on par with Any Serkis. His live-action work, as in, him being him and not a computer generated character, is equally enjoyable. He’s been a fine actor in everything I’ve seen him in and this film is no different.
The character he plays, Jimmy, is a recurring character. As in Jimmy is killed soon after he’s introduced. Then Jimmy comes back to help him out some more. Then Jimmy is killed off again. Are you confused yet? This is because Jimmy is a… clone? Cyborg clone? Anyway, Jimmy is constantly replicated. When one is killed another Jimmy is nearby. I bring this up because every Jimmy has a different personality. This absolutely tickles me because each new performance is so great. I love how much of a chameleon he is and the energy he always brings to everything he does. I wish more people knew him, but being part of an exclusive club always has its fun perks.
Beyond that, the performances are about what I expected. Kozlovsky chews the scenery like a boss. Bennett definitely portrays a character that we want Henry to save. And Jimmy is always a character we want to listen to. Whether because he’s a coke addict pimp or an old timey war colonel, the performances are completely believable.
While I won’t dock points for a lack of a meaningful or heartfelt story, I do have maybe one small complaint.
I can’t claim to be this movie’s creator or creators, but I do have to ask the question: was this movie intended to feel like a video game? Because if the answer is “yes” then I don’t think the creators play many videos games.
I’ve played games like HALO and CALL OF DUTY (thanks Travis, you lovable bastard) and I can tell you firsthand that video games are a shit ton more streamlined than this. If you have played first-person shooters, the camera work is AT BEST rocky. Not to the Bourne-style this movie has adopted. You can still make out who may be shooting at you or attacking you. But this movie has very little interest in letting you know what’s what.
If this ends up being a franchise, then it needs to allow the audience a reprieve from the headaches that they are bound to experience. I don’t want that for any casual movie-goer. Everyone should be able to experience this movie with an open mind, instead of an open mouth with a trash can waiting for their vomit. That’s no fun.
For what it’s worth, though, I think if you know what you’re in for, then you’re good. This movie could have been a lot worse and is probably better than it should have been. While this style of film-making might be fine for this movie, this shouldn’t be the standard. This is a foundation. Now future movies that might want to do a similar film should take notes on what works, what doesn’t, and what to improve upon. How about a real narrative? Or well-written characters? The action writes itself, but good characters and a story to invest in takes real effort too. This doesn’t impact the movie as is, but it is a highlight to compare future similar projects.
My honest rating: a strong 4/5