Hardcore Henry‘s action premise is, at the very least, original. Shot almost entirely on a Go-Pro, Hardcore Henry hopes to make a footprint on the film industry. If it doesn’t make big bucks, it should be able to gauge the interest of audiences and filmmakers for its originality alone.
While some critics have said the first-person action gets old real quick, I was hooked from the beginning. A movie shot like this, especially an action film, is going to have its detractors. If you don’t have a quick eye, chances are your head will start to hurt after a bit as you struggle to keep up. The adrenaline rush is empowering, breathing new life into what at times has become a dormant action genre. The choreography of stunts is an evolving enterprise and the invention and further application of special effects has made the attempts of practical stuntwork all the more difficult for its practitioners. Despite Mad Max: Fury Road‘s pathetic attempt to call itself a story, it showcased some of the best practical stuntwork in the history of film and was properly rewarded with six Oscars. George Miller’s film serves as a visionary for the action dreamers and one can only hope that films will start to model their work after extraordinary efforts like the ones we saw in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
Hardcore Henry platforms a similar intensity to its product with a film technique that is the first of its kind and it’s also dynamic enough to keep a true action aficionado engaged and begging for more. Putting you in the shoes of the protagonist-in this case, literally-leaves the film with a look of a first-person shooter. Our generation loves to be dazzled. Call us entitled if you want; we don’t care. In terms of explosive content, Hardcore Henry is the best of 2016 thus far and when you consider it’s nearly four full months into the year, that’s impressive, especially for an independent film.
That’s right. This beauty is an independent film, removed from any major production studio. There is a stigma among the film industry that independents don’t succeed, the same way that artists without a label must not be relevant. This stigma isn’t without backing. I’ve watched a fair share of independent films and while they often present unique ideas, they falter at the fundamentals of movie-making. It’s also hard to thrill when you’re constricted by a budget.
Despite all the obstacle courses independent films have to jump, crawl, bend, and hurdle through, the independent corridor has its gems. It’s my belief that Hardcore Henry is one of those gems.
While its story is rudimentary, its simplicity allows audiences to focus on the action output of the film. That’s not an excuse, only a comment. Its story leaves much to be desired if the glamour of hand-to-hand combat, shootouts and chase scenes don’t catch your fancy. Director Ilya Naishuller relies on his action and almost avoids writing a story. Through a plot point, our main character, who we can’t see, is left mute. He doesn’t say a word the entire film, which isn’t to say he doesn’t have personality but his range is handicapped. If he was an established character, such as a video game character like Master Chief or Lara Croft, it’s not as much of a problem. We already have a pretty good idea of who’s at the head of our rendezvous. Henry is an unknown and remains that way at the story’s end. He’s a pair of eyeballs for us, an avatar in a sci-fi tale. He is a person though, not a machine and one feels slighted when the film spends so little time with him. Our villain is a pompous drama king who overexaggerates everything with no character parameters. Sharlto Copley’s character is engaging and serves as a talking tutorial for those who choose to watch this, but also feels like a charade by film’s end.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
60-69 It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Beasts of No Nation, Terminator: Genisys)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (War, The Ridiculous 6, The Lost Boys, Zombeavers, Crank)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for Hardcore Henry: 64.
At film’s end, you want to rally for Hardcore Henry and applaud the action standard it regularly sets and meets for itself as well as the repertoire of emotions it manages in its set pieces, but I can’t deny another part of me is a bit peeved at the story’s mediocre success.