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Review: Hardcore Henry

by Jean-Paul Jean II

Ever played a first-person shooter video game and thought “gee, wouldn’t this be a lot better if I had no control over it and just had to watch someone else play it with no humorous Let’s Players providing fun commentary over it?”  No?  Yeah, me neither.  Which is why I expected the new first-person action flick Hardcore Henry to be boring and pretty bone-headed.


Hardcore Henry 4

Courtesy STX Entertainment


Oh man, am I glad I was wrong!  Not about the bone-headed part – if you’re looking for some solid story-driven substance, you’re in the wrong movie.  But Hardcore Henry is a pretty incredible action film.  It knows what it is and (for the most part) doesn’t try to be more than a dumb testosterone-fest with some very creative filmmaking and a clear passion for big, fun, stupid, crazy movies.


The basic concept for the story is pretty simple.  Some big baddie wants an army of cyborg soldiers to help him rule the world.  Yeah, that’s the gist of it.  They do try to add some additional layers like Henry’s companion Jimmy (played by Sharlto Copley), a scientist who designed the cyborgs but also cloned various versions of himself all with unique(-ish) personalities and skills.  While a potentially interesting idea, the multitudinous Jimmys (um…”Jimmies”…?  Is there a plural form of Jimmy?) do become rather tiring and some of the gags surrounding them become a bit stale by the end.  There was only one scene that truly broke the immersion of the movie for me, and unfortunately it was due to the Jimmy clones – just an odd choice that feels like an out of place attempt to provide levity for the less-violence-tolerating members of the audience.


Courtesy STX Entertainment

Courtesy STX Entertainment


Speaking of violence, if that’s what you’re looking for you will be more than satiated by this film.  There’s almost non-stop action throughout, and yet it strangely doesn’t become repetitive.  The filmmakers are creative enough with their choices to provide variety in the ways that people die gruesomely.  And boy, do people die.  I’d estimate the body-count as well into the hundreds.  Axes, guns, knives, grenades, rockets, hand-to-hand combat, debris, tanks, cars, mines, bombs, bone-cracking, dismemberment, and just plain bad luck all pile up the bodies – and it is a true boyish joy the whole time.  That said, it’s not as gory as I expected (most of the time) but the squeamish should still be aware of this going into it.  Probably not a good date movie…


Courtesy STX Entertainment

Courtesy STX Entertainment


One of the most amazing parts for me was watching Pewdiepie get the $#!% kicked out of him.  No, it wasn’t the real Pewds, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if director Ilya Naishuller admitted the villain was designed based on the brofisting YouTuber.  Honestly, I’d probably be more surprised if he said that wasn’t the case.  This fairly generic baddie (goes to show you how great the story was…I can’t even remember his name.  Apparently it was Akan.) looks and sounds so reminiscent of the obnoxious Let’s Player that it felt even more satisfying whenever Henry landed a few solid hits on him.  And, honestly, wouldn’t it make sense that this movie that plays out like a video game would try to replicate the face of the world’s bigge-


…oh god, it actually pains me to write this…ugh…


…the world’s biggest gam-


…do I have to write this??  Maybe I can find an alternate wording…hmmm…


…the world’s most well-known gamer.  Nope, even that hurts.  All the more reason their big showdown in the climax is a must-see for any gamer who can’t stand Pewdiepie.


Courtesy STX Entertainment

Courtesy STX Entertainment


Now perhaps the biggest concern I’ve heard for this film is the first-person view.  Will it give you motion sickness?  I didn’t feel any, but I rarely do and found-footage films like Cloverfield and Chronicle are usually ok for me as well.  I’d say give it a shot, but if you’re hyper-sensitive to movement this probably isn’t the film for you.  It’s surprisingly immersive and really adds a lot to the action movie formula.  They find some creative ways to play with it throughout the film and the even work the viewpoint of the movie into the “story.”  For me, the most negative thing I can say about it were the cuts.  Every film has to have cuts – even 2014’s Birdman which used illusions and clever editing to make it seem like the whole movie is one single mega-take.  Hardcore Henry probably should have done that.  It’s kind of amazing how little we notice cuts in traditional third-person movies and television, but when the whole film is designed to make you feel like you’re seeing things from Henry’s eyes makes a jump from one scene to the next a bit jarring.  There’s even a few chase sequences where the cuts take you from one location to another with no transition.  Despite this, however, Henry manages to not only make first-person filmmaking work, but make it necessary for the film as more than just a gimmick.


Also boobs.


Lots and lots and lots of boobs, drugs, guns, and insanity.


It’s really just Testosterone: The Movie!


Courtesy STX Entertainment

Courtesy STX Entertainment


So if you want to just let loose and watch a fun-as-hell movie that literally packs a punch, Hardcore Henry is the place to be.  It’s no masterpiece, but it’s certainly a great time to be had and deserves to be recognized as one of the great dumb-action-movies.  Whether you want to see a film with a novelty approach to filmmaking, a lot of nameless people die in gruesome ways, or Pewdiepie meet with a horrible fate, I would highly recommend Hardcore Henry – but only for the most hardcore of audiences.


Will you be gearing up for Hardcore Henry?  Let us know in the comments below!


Check out the trailer here:

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