Review: ‘Hardcore Henry’ a first-person thrill ride
Crank the “Crank” movies up to 11 and you have “Hardcore Henry,” the hyper-adrenalized nonstop action jolt that replicates the first-person video game experience better than any movie before it.
With his debut feature, Russian writer-director Ilya Naishuller shifts the perspective of the main character entirely to the audience, making the viewer, in essence, the star of the film. It’s an innovative gimmick and it works surprisingly well, even though the shaky camera work (the filmmakers shot using GoPro cameras) could cause bouts of nausea for theatergoers.
In the film, “you” are Henry, a genetically modified super-soldier who wakes up with his memory wiped clean. The story is the quest to find out what happened and why, and Henry is aided by Jimmy (“District 9’s” Sharlto Copley), who plays multiple characters who guide the action in mini-missions along the way.
Henry flees a laboratory high above the clouds in an escape pod and drops into Moscow where he plows through the city looking for Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), the powerful boss with telekinetic powers who holds the key to his fate. Along the way he must kick, punch and shoot his way through dozens of thugs in a narrative that is like “Grand Theft Auto” come to life.
“Hardcore Henry” is a lot to take in, and its relentlessness may have some looking to hit the pause button. Naishuller wisely laces the film with bursts of humor, and Copley is a hoot, especially when he duets with several versions of himself during a bizarre rendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
“Hardcore Henry” doesn’t just get under your skin, it gets behind your eyeballs and uses your head as its own cockpit. For hardcore thrills, “Henry” is your guy.
Rated R for nonstop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use
Running time: 96 minutes