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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "Hardcore Henry" is hard to watch

Apr 08, 2016 10:14PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Hardcore Henry - © 2015 STX Productions

Hardcore Henry (STX Entertainment)

Rated R for non-stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use.

Starring Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth, Andrei Dementiev, Svetlana Ustinova, Darya Charusha, Oleg Poddubnyy.

Written and Directed by Ilya Naishuller.



The things that make a movie memorable are varied. Sometimes, it’s the action, the stunts, the special effects, the surprises (plot twists) or the characters themselves brought to life by talented actors. Sometimes, there’s an innovative technique, and that becomes the most memorable part of the movie (see: Blair Witch), spawning several copycat attempts (if I never see another “found footage” movie it would be a good thing). Hardcore Henry is one of those movies that will be (slightly) remembered for its technique and not much else. The entire film is seen from the point of view of one (cyborg) man, so if you get motion sickness from too much “film verite” (a French term for shaky camera), Hardcore Henry is a movie that may require a few barf bags.

The film begins with Henry (no actor is credited for the role, although I’m sure there were a few stunt performers wearing a mounted GoPro who played the character) waking up submerged in a lab located inside and airship where his mangled body is being fitted for robotic limbs by the beautiful Estelle (Haley Bennett), whom he does not recognize as his wife. Their discussion is interrupted by a group of commandos led by the evil, telekinetic Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). Henry and Estelle get to an escape pod and crash land in Russia, where another group of mercenaries attack them and kidnap Estelle. Henry then goes on a long chase to rescue her, aided by occasional visits from several versions of “Jimmy” (Sharlto Copley), who appears and reappears even though he seems to get killed from time to time (spoiler: they’re cyborg clones of the same guy).

Eventually, Henry meets up with the real Jimmy in his secret lab, as Akan and his minions close in. A huge, bloody battle ensues, and Henry discovers the real truth behind his identity, Akan and his wife.

Hardcore Henry is hard to watch, not only because of the constant shaky camera, but also because of the relentless violence and lack of anything resembling a coherent story. Some of the action is cool, but too much cool can freeze your movie into a one-trick pony. As for the violence, I suppose it’s meant to be “comic” violence, but the gruesome means by which people and cyborgs die spans the imagination, slanting toward ridiculousness.

Writer/director Ilya Naishuller, whose previous claim to fame is being the front man for the Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows (their music plays often through the soundtrack) seems to be more enamored GoPro stunts and blood splatter than storytelling. Hardcore Henry is like Blair Witch on steroids. That isn’t a compliment.

Hardcore Henry Trailer