On its surface, Hardcore Henry—the new first person perspective action movie—is an interesting experiment. But, is it any good as a film?
Hardcore Henry is being touted as the first video game as movie due to its first person point of view perspective. However, I find that to be an insult to video games. The plot of this movie might have passed for a lousy first person shooter (FPS) game fifteen years ago, but games are now far more sophisticated and have stories and dialogue that can rival Hollywood features. What passes for a script in Hardcore Henry is a joke. The plot is fairly nonsensical too. The very loose story centers on a cyborg named Henry who must save his scientist wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett) from telekinetic madman Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), all while being aided by a guy named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who has a knack for showing up at just the right moment. All the dialogue scenes really do here is set up the next action set piece—much like old FPS games where there was little to no story.
Some of the action scenes are inspired, but the movie is solely built on a gimmick that gets very stale after about five minutes. Also the nature of the gimmick makes this the worst shaky-cam film I’ve seen in some time—it’s headache-inducing. Aside from the fact that the main character is a blank slate and has no character whatsoever, the film commits the cardinal sin of action movies: it’s BORING. The action becomes so tedious that the two people I saw the film with fell asleep, twice! Movies like John Wick and pretty much any Jason Statham film also have mindless action, but those films are at least entertaining. After a while, the action scenes in Hardcore Henry simply became rote and numbing. They ceased to be interesting and just became Henry—a character with no character—tearing through legions of people. When the audience doesn’t care about the character, the action he’s participating in becomes meaningless.
The only saving grace for this film is that Copley is mildly entertaining throughout, but I’d rather see him in something else. He gives it his all, but the script is so terrible, he can only do the best he can with what he’s given. The rest of the performances are either over the top hammy (Kozlovsky) or so wooden (Bennett) that having a stack of lumber in there would have generated more entertainment.
Overall, while Hardcore Henry has a decent gimmick that may work well in a five minute YouTube video—where Writer-Director Ilya Naishuller hatched the concept—it just can’t sustain a feature-length film. Kudos to the filmmakers for trying something new, but even if you’re trying something new, a good film starts with a good script. Maybe next time the filmmakers who attempt this will take the time to actually craft a story and characters—if there is a next time.