Going into this film, I knew that it was going to be insane. The previews had me giddy with anticipation and Sharlto Copley has easily become one of my favorite actors since he stared in District 9. And that’s not even mentioning the fact it was produced by Timur “The Action GENIUS” Bekmambetov. You may not know the name, but you likely have seen his work. He did a little film called Wanted a few years back.
If you have never seen Wanted, then just imagine the dorkiest guy getting trained to become an elite assassin by Morgan Freeman with the most amazing fight choreography seen to that date. Not to mention it was funny as hell. Anyway, Timur took what he learned from all of his films (including some incredible Russian Horror/Action films: Night Watch & Day Watch) and shoved it into the relative fledgling director: Ilya Naishuller‘s brain and let him loose with a GoPro and some cocaine. And when I say “relative fledgling” I mean this was his first film outside of some music videos he did with his band.
Well, being jazzed up, afraid a little bit that I might get motion sickness and make a mess at my local AMC, but thankfully that never became a problem. Probably the easiest way for me to describe my feelings for this movie is this: From the moment the film began to its perfect, yet simple, ending, I have not had that much FUN in a movie since I can remember.
I knew what to expect from the action and choreography, but had no idea what the full content would look like. First of all, I think the amount of gore and violence would make the Deadpool film blush. I’m not kidding, from the beginning credits on, it was pretty much the most mature and bloodiest film I’ve seen since Deadpool, and considering nothing had been on that level for years, that says a lot about what I was watching. I’d love to say that it was all completely necessary, but I just can’t quite get there. I will say that using the first person perspective did lend a little more credence to the gratuitous amount of gore, but not by much.
Some of my favorite moments of the film were the multi-character fight scenes. There are two reasons for this: first, everyone attacked at once. There was none of this “one guy at a time” fight choreography. Sometimes that did get a little overwhelming, especially since the point of view, but honestly, when you have a full on gang rush you, they’re not going to take turns getting the crap beat out of them.
And secondly, the music was just pitch perfect. The trailer set it up, but delivering Queens “Can’t Stop Me Now” during the pentacle fight scene was just brilliant. If you felt that the movie was moving fast before, and believe me the non-stop action kept the pace lightning quick, then you have no idea what speed can be.
I could dote on the action and the innovation for a long time, but sadly a film can’t be judged on that alone. For all intents and purposes, Henry (or you) are the main character of this film, at least that’s what they’re going for. But Sharlto Copley is the one who steals the show. Using a clever method (which would spoil the film, so I won’t give it away), they’re able to shove as much Copley in this film as they can. And not just the first one you see on screen. Copley plays at least over ten characters throughout the movie that assist Henry. I loved that at first there was absolutely no explanation and once they did explain it, the explanation was one of the best bits of the film.
Aside from Copley, there really isn’t another presence that gives this film a fully fleshed out performance. Actor Danila Kozlovsky, gets the opportunity to play “Generic Russian Villain #420” and the writers don’t give him much to do. I will give the make-up and effects team some serious props for making him pretty damn creepy looking and seemingly untouchable. For those of you looking for the video game parallels, he’s the endgame boss you meet multiple times who kicks your ass due to a power you seemingly can’t get past (in this case, it’s telekinesis).
Honestly the plot, story, and dialogue will seem immediately familiar to any video gamer. Much like the multiple Copleys, this film is broken into multiple “missions” which just break down to changes of the location and level of insanity. One particular scene shows Copley as a coked out hippie who fights alongside Henry with a frantic pace and screaming non-sense. All of this takes place in a bordello and in the first person point-of-view, the entire experience is, how do I say…quite realistic.
Clearly the writers (ones that actually wrote for the game “Payday 2”) and director were not looking for Best Picture in 2017 here, but I would be highly surprised if they didn’t get nominated for visual effects. All in all, they knew what they were creating. A fast paced, action packed, tiny plotted and limply acted video game film. I just can’t endorse it other than a frantic action film. Now it’s extremely innovative with both their filming method and a few good surprises along the way, but the longest lasting legacy of Hardcore Henry will be using crowdfunding to complete it (make sure to go there, it showcases some behind-the-scenes stuff as well as the team doing the film), and likely spawning a whole host of copycat films. Yeah, I’m guessing Hardcore Henry will come in the top five films at the box office this week, even opening in a relatively weak 2700 screens nationwide.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
I pretty much did this part the paragraph above, but it’s pretty simple: if you enjoyed Deadpool or play first person style shooters and are desensitized extreme gore and violence, you’ll really enjoy Hardcore Henry. I mean, it has a really low threshold in terms of enjoyment, but I guarantee if you’re this film’s target audience, you will have an absolute blast watching it.