#REVIEW: “HARDCORE HENRY”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
You are a cyborg woken up in the near future by your scientist wife Estelle (Haley Bennett). Before you get your bearings, the lab is attacked by a group led by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), and Estelle is kidnapped. Unable to speak, you run into a man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who knows who you are and volunteers his help to find your wife. Then you are off to battle your way through Russia to find her.
That set-up sounds positively insane, but acts as the series of events that kick off the opening ten or so minutes of Hardcore Henry. Unsurprisingly, the Film does not let up again until after the credits start ninety minutes later.
True to its title, Hardcore Henry is indeed a hardcore, bone-crunching piece of cinematic mayhem. It is light on story and definitely not for the faint of heart. But if you have been paying attention to the barrage of trailers and ads, than you already know if you are brave enough to venture out and see it on the biggest screen possible. I have been waiting ever since the World Premiere at TIFF last September (during Midnight Madness no less) to experience this truly unique action picture again, and can tell you it delivers on everything it promises. And then some.
Writer/Director Ilya Naishuller has composed the ultimate action thriller for this generation. Through the initially gimmicky first person lens (which yes, does resemble a game of Call of Duty), he allows the viewer to become a part of each action scene, no matter how chaotic. The entire Film is shot mainly on Go Pro cameras, giving it a very gritty look and feel. The experience is immersive and frequently overloads the senses, without relying on 3D glasses for assistance. The effect is nauseating to say the least – one person fainted during a screening I attended, and I can only assume theatres will be stocking up on barf bags this weekend.
If the look of the Film was not enough, the staging of the actions scenes is downright spectacular. There are minimal special effects on display here. Instead, the savagely brutal carnage is mainly captured practically in a way that will make you long for the aesthetic of Action Films from the 1970s and 1980s. And it is incredibly well-choreographed no matter if it is a gun battle, a street fight, a motorcycle chase or a 1 versus 100 free-for-all scored to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. You will be amazed by just how incredible some of the insane stunts are in Hardcore Henry, and will be even more astonished trying to figure out all the tricks Naishuller and his crew employed to make them all happen.
I would be remiss to not mention how off-the-wall and batshit-crazy Copley’s performance(s) is. We already know he is a bit of a wild card through his work in the likes of District 9, Chappie and The A-Team, but he is downright deranged throughout this Film’s 100-minute runtime. For reasons explained late in the Film, Jimmy keeps appearing with different personalities, costumes and weapon specialities. And somehow, Copley manages to find a way to make each one feel wholly unique and entirely different from the next. This is not an easy task, especially when you see how many sides there are to Jimmy, but he makes it look downright simplistic. And one of his scenes is so baffling that you just need to see it to believe it. If you did not think Copley was an absolutely incredible talent before, his work here will solidify it.
Hardcore Henry is a remarkable achievement, and one hell of a viciously violent thrill ride. Necks are snapped, bones are pulverized into dust, and bullets destroy every single body part. The world envisioned here by Naishuller is a bit dystopic, but it provides for one of the most unique viewing experiences you will have this year. So grab your buddies and rush out to see Hardcore Henry. Just make sure you can pay the bill for your melted face afterwards.
VVS Films release HARDCORE HENRY on Friday, April 8, 2016.