At the movies: ‘Hardcore Henry’
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Directed By Ilya Naishuller
Starring Sharlto Copley, Haley Bennett, Danila Kozlovsky, Cyrus Arnold, Andrey Dementiev, Dasha Charusha, Sveta Ustinova, Tim Roth
Bazelevs Production, Rated R, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, 90 minutes
First person perspective is the norm for video games built upon players shooting, blowing up, or otherwise besting a perpetual string of enemies. “Hardcore Henry” brings this concept to film, dropping viewers into the hero’s experience via a GoPro camera mounted to Henry’s head. It’s a novel concept sporting lots of twists and turns. About 30 minutes in, I realized the underdeveloped plot attempted to hold viewer interest, simply counting on its egocentric gimmick.
When we meet Henry, he awakens in a vat of liquid to find beautiful Estelle (Haley Bennett) attaching prosthetic limbs to what remains of his body. She tells amnesiac Henry that she is his wife, and loves him, but she must quickly prepare him to fight the host of killers wishing to terminate his existence. In short order, platinum haired, yellow-eyed Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) breaks into the lab intending to do just that. Henry manages to escape, but Akan kidnaps Henry’s wife. To make matters worse, Henry is mute because the attack occurred before his voice program could be activated.
Why Akan wants Henry dead is unclear, though it’s got something to do with world domination. Luckily, Henry meets self-appointed friend Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who becomes his only ally. Jimmy is repeatedly killed, but always reappears in an ever-changing roster of guises. Though bonkers, he knows things that might help Henry accomplish his mission, that is provided Jimmy survives long enough.
Hoping to locate his wife, Henry leaps from 16-story rooftops, guns down dozens of soldiers, breaks necks and slits throats. Despite his astounding kill rate and the super-strength afforded via bionic limbs, Henry is helpless against Akan whose telekinetic powers incapacitate Henry. Akan’s ability to overcome Henry prompted me to wonder why he sacrificed 100s of soldiers rather than just killing Henry himself, because no matter how much injury Henry sustains, he’s undeterred in his quest.
Rushing to be first in exploiting this action-hero novelty, the writers failed to develop concepts beyond the, “Hey, wouldn’t this be cool?” stage. The film took in $5 million during its opening weekend, a paltry sum indicating that either this ploy doesn’t impress movie-goers, or that video gamers are more interested in playing such games themselves than in paying for a ticket to watch someone else play.