Release Date: April 08, 2016
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Writer: Ilya Naishauller, Will Stewart
Cast: Sharito Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth, Andrei Dementiev, Svetlana Ustinova, Darya Charusha, Oleg Poddubnyy, Jack Hahn, Cyrus Arnold, Jake Karlen, Will Stewart, Ilya Naishuller, Martin Cooke, Sergey Chekrygin, Vladimir Lukyanchikov, Andrey Berezkin, Prokhor Zikora, Ravshana Kurkova, Vasiliy Bobylev, Ilya Kondratev, Michael Mikhitarov, Regina Surmina, Roman Leshenko
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes
Production Company: Bazelevs Production, Versus Pictures, STX Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Language: English, Russian
Country: Russia, USA
At times it seems like Hollywood is never looking for any new ideas to hit the big screens across the country. So when they do, it’s exciting and can really grab a movie goer’s attention, especially when you throw a first person perspective into the mix. That’s been popular for quite some time and gained my interest back in the 90’s with the 007 Goldeneye videogame. Though, when the trailer first hit for Hardcore Henry, I wasn’t glued to the television excited with anticipation. It looked fun, but with enough obnoxious action to cause a migraine headache. However, something struck a nerve to go in with a positive point of view, but I’ll say never has my opinion on a film bounced from love to hate in such a short amount of time.
It doesn’t matter if a stunt team choreographs the best action imaginable, if the camera isn’t set up in the right position. Along with other aspects of filmmaking, failing at this step will ruin the entire sequence. That’s not the worry here initially, with only one first person perspective. This is where the audience member starts to smile seeing the world of Henry through his eyes. What’s so great about the intro is not knowing where to focus your attention, the pretty girl at your feet, the futuristic technology, or the basic dialogue that’s filling in all the gaps. It’s a great way to start a film and get the audience onboard. Soon after, action ensues and you’re along for the ride.
That ride is sweet at first, then slows down as the first person perspective dies out quickly. This camera angle is only pleasant when Henry is taking his time during his adventure to look at someone, take a nice walk, or run in a straight line. But when’s he’s fighting, jumping, and getting beat down, the camera is all over the place; as well as your senses. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While loving the first ten minutes of the film, shortly after I thought to myself, “Why am I here?” I say that because I wasn’t aware of the point of all of the destruction, nor the endgame. I wasn’t sure who was good or bad, as they popped up countless times without giving any perspective of what’s going on. All I knew was some people were trying to kill Henry, while others were trying to help him.
That’s usually how a plot works. But here it didn’t, because no one gave their all. There’s an evil antagonist, that won’t be named, that possesses super natural abilities. At one point he can clearly end Henry to reach his goal, but doesn’t go for the kill. Another time he lets him go, and then it repeats over and over again. I just didn’t understand the logic behind it. Other characters pop up to help Henry but do so in riddles. They say, “Hey Henry, I’m here to help,” then leave him out to die seconds later under fire. I thought a twist was coming at the end of the film, maybe a dream sequence or some advanced testing of new robotics in a real world setting, but that wasn’t the case either. In a sense it was, but it definitely did not pay off. I’m also not a fan of misguided timelines. If I’m told a character will die in twenty minutes, but they’re still running around five hours later, there’s a problem.
For a good while the plot seemed like it would never come together, but it eventually did; nearly answering all the unanswered questions that came before. I was happy for a minute. Then the film took another dive off a cliff blindfolded with its arms tied behind its back into a world of nonsense and boredom. Every single thing became ridiculously convenient for Henry. If he lost his transportation, a horse would appear out of nowhere. If he ran out of bullets, more weapons would appear out of nowhere. If he was lost, he got a call or text with directions out of nowhere. If he needed anything, it appeared out of nowhere. Then the film tries to climax with nonstop action that held no weight or stakes. It was just bloody action for the sake of action, and I didn’t care. One man’s goal is to build an army to take over the world, but he literally sits back and watches his army be destroyed one by one. He could end it with a simple wave of his hand, but he doesn’t. I would say at that point I didn’t care anymore, but that mindset came about twenty minutes into the film.