Movie Review with Jeff McCullough: Hardcore Henry

By Jeff McCullough on May 02, 2016 from Movie Review via

As far as filmmaking goes, it's a deadest rule that you never want to put style over substance. Syrup is delicious, but it's only at its best when poured over a well-made waffle. And if you’re only looking in that regard, Hardcore Henry is a pretty messed up waffle, undercooked, but still somehow burnt on the bottom. But this time someone switched out the syrup with a bottle of Tabasco sauce made from Ghost Peppers and Vladimir Vodka; this might not be the most cohesive of action films, but it might just be the craziest.
Famously filmed entirely from the first person, Hardcore is among the nuttiness and most exhilarating action films ever made; it's also among the most ridiculous, perplexing, and dare I say, stupidest. The story is weak to the point of near non-existence; for all intents and purposes the plot serves as filler in between set pieces of increasing insanity, designed to stretch the film out to a marketable length. As it is, we follow these thin threads from the perspective of our protagonist, a chap named Henry who is appropriately hardcore.
Henry has had the misfortunate of having several important body parts blown off namely his arm and leg, but thankfully cybernetics and other futuristic nonsense are around to not only save his life, but transform him into a near invulnerable cyborg. This is not a guy you want to mess around with, but to his detriment and our enjoyment, the telekinetic warlord Akan decides to just that. Cut to an armed and angry Henry, raging across the countryside, inflicting an increasing amount of carnage as he murders thugs and tries to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend; if it sounds like something out of an 80s NES game that's because it is.
So yeah, while the story is fun it’s not perfect. In some cases honestly, a bad story might
be a deal-breaker for me, but the action in this film is some of the best in the history of the genre. Yes, first person films have been done before, but none of them quite like this. In the grand tradition of mass murdering videogame heros Henry shoots, strangles, bludgeons, and explodes hundreds of goons in dozens of "levels" including a strip club, racing on a motorcycle down the highway, and a tank attack in the middle of a freaking forest.
Hardcore really does feel like a videogame at points; the running and jumping scenes in particular reminded me of Mirror's Edge. Most of the layouts follow this same mentality; generally Henry kills a few dozen of generic schlubs before moving onto the big boy and executing them in a painful manner. I was afraid this format would get old as the film went on, but for me it never did.
And that inventiveness does go a long way. While yes, a great many people meet their end from the barrel of a gun, there's some stupendously invigorating sequences. The Fast and The Furious wish it could pull of Hardcore's highway scene, with Henry leaping from vehicle to vehicle, pistol in one hand grenade in the other, blowing everything to kingdom come as he goes. It's the kind of breath taking shot that makes just about every other action film look limp in comparison.
Style over substance is just about always a formula for disaster, but Hardcore Henry might just be one of the few exceptions. The most exhilarating film of this (and possibly any) year, fans of off the wall action owe it to themselves to make it out to the theatre.
4 out of 5

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