Hardcore Henry Review

Posted: August 13, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

hardcorehenryWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

2016 has been an interesting year for videogames adapted to film. The year has already given us Ratchet and Clank, The Angry Birds Movie, and Warcraft, while an adaptation of Assassin’s Creed is due this December. Granted, in keeping with the tradition of videogame movies, all of these films (save for the still unreleased Assassin’s Creed) received abysmal reviews and are of almost no interest to me. Still, it is interesting that so many videogame movies are coming out right at the same time and it’s also interesting that the film which stylistically feels the most like a videogame actually isn’t based on one at all. That film is Hardcore Henry, and is notable for being shot almost entirely from a first-person perspective and mimicking the feel of a first-person shooter videogame.

The film opens on the laboratory of an airship flying over Russia where we meet our main character and viewpoint into this world; a cyborg named Henry. There, Henry is greeted by a woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett), a scientist claiming to be Henry’s creator and wife. It isn’t long however before the ship is attacked and Estelle is taken by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) a telekinetic being who also controls an army of mercenary. This puts Henry on a violence infused path to rescue Estelle, aided only by a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley).

There isn’t much in the way of story or character in Hardcore Henry; this is basically just a barrage of violent action from start to finish. Some will defend this seeing it’s replicating the experience of first-person shooters but I disagree, in fact I find that to be insulting to a lot of FPS games. The fact is game series like Bioshock and Half-Life have used the first-person shooter to do all sorts of interesting things with narrative while also providing a viscerally thrilling experience. Hell, even highly simplistic shooters like Call of Duty have offered more in terms of story and have used the first person style for more than just action. Also, while the first-person perspective is an inherently immersive device for videogames, it doesn’t work that way for movies. What makes first-person immersive in a game is that it is the player which controls that viewpoint of the world and makes the decisions. However a film lacks any sense of that control; immersion comes from connecting to a character and story. Cinematic tricks like first-person can aid that immersion, but it cannot create it entirely. Watching it Hardcore Henry I kept thinking back to a mostly forgotten horror remake called Maniac, which also used first person to put viewers in the minds of the film’s protagonist, but also created and developed character that the audience could understand and identify.

Given the film is totally lacking in character, story, or immersion, all it really offers is a non-stop orgy of violence and mayhem in the first-person perspective. I tend not to take on a very “holier than thou” attitude when it comes to violence in movies (and other media) but there is something sickening about the violence in Hardcore Henry. We aren’t rooting for Henry because we empathize with him and want him to be happy, nor are we rooting against the villains because they’re so evil and cruel, we are just watching to see endless amounts of people murdered by a mute protagonist. There’s no meaning to any of this and it quickly becomes numbing. Of course perhaps the greater offense to me isn’t that the violence is sickening and pointless, but that it’s totally inept and infuriating to watch. The action scenes are consistently a jumbled mess which are hard to follow and in no way exiting. Given that plus my complete lack of connection with this film on any level, it wasn’t long before I found myself completely bored in spite of the rapid spectacle.

I’m sure making a film in this style took a lot of work and effort, but good god was it an ordeal to watch. I hated Hardcore Henry from start to finish. The film is a shallow assault on the senses which emphasizes the worst potential of action movies and first-person shooters in order to make something wholly unappealing and hard to stomach. There’s just nothing here to grasp on to. The stylistic first-person gimmick is neat in theory, but adds nothing to the film intellectually. Are there intersting things one could do with an entirely first-person perspective? Certainly, but Hardcore Henry isn’t that film. There’s hardly any character or story, and the action is all too often an incoherent cluster of noise and images. In short, there’s nothing I liked in Hardcore Henry and I’ll be shocked if I see any movie this year that’s worse.

F

Comments
  1. Great take. I certainly agree with you about this trash, it was just sickening to watch.

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