Hardcore Henry

Release Date: April 8, 2016
Review Date: April 11, 2016
Reviewer: Blake Leath
Genre(s): Action & Adventure

My little eyeballs have huge eyeball headaches.

Despite being an obscure and bleak wackadoo film manufactured by Russians, and as if for Russians, Hardcore Henry is one of the most original films I've seen in a long while. I am tempted to use the word 'ambitious,' though that might be overstating it...a bit.

Filmed in first-person using GoPro cameras, it's a wildly frenetic, chaotic, unending series of chases (on foot, over fences, across bodies of water, in cars, in planes, in helicopters, in tanks, up the sides of buildings), fights (gunfights, knife fights, fistfights), vehicular entanglements and car crashes and fiery explosions, and every other manner of maniacal mayhem one can imagine.

If monster truck rallies and gun shows and Red Bull and Mountain Dew and teenage boys and Tasmanian Devils and Russian mobsters and District 9 and Chappie and Mad Max and Jason Bourne and violent videogames had babies, I guess this would be one of them.

Did I like it? Yes.

Was it enjoyable? For about 40 minutes.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely not.

It ended ninety minutes ago, and my ears are still ringing, my eyeballs still throbbing, and I have a pounding headache that will require at least three Tylenol and two more hours to alleviate.

The film demandsand getsyour complete and undivided attention. It truly is riveting; you won't be able to avert your eyes, until you absolutely have to because you simply cannot take it anymore.

I was blown away by the level of precision on display here, from combat choreography to 'stuntman action.' It's really remarkable. How they pulled it off, and what the poor fools must have suffered in order to make it happen is beyond comprehension, at least to me. 

And it's a clever story, complete with plot twists.

The inexplicably telekinetic antagonist (an albino Lex Luthor) is immeasurably grating, Eisenbergian in every slippery, arched-back, feline way; the protagonistHenry himselfis merely half crash-test dummy/half wrecking ball, a speechless vessel of pain reception and infliction, and beyond Jimmy (a weird sort of reclusive ne'er-do-well narrator, doppelgänger, and Ex Machina-like cyborg scientist), everyone else is either randomly anonymous cannon fodder or a receptacle for bullets, blades, grenades, pipe bombs, mirrored shrapnel and glass fragments, sharp sheet metal, or punch after punch after punch.

Hardcore Henry makes mincemeat and pacifists of virtually every other cinematic one-man-army you can think of: Rambo? A daisy; gimme a break. Bourne? Wouldn't stand a chance at Canada's Lilith Fair, much less against Henry. Bond, Indiana Jones, John McClane, Bane, Spartacus, the Terminator, Predator, Lecter, Vader, The Joker, Keyser Soze, every alien, every man in tights, Se7en's Kevin Spacey, heck, even Lundgren, Lee, Chan, Seagal, Statham, Van Damme, and Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin and their entire Delta Force if led by Navy SEALs on 'roids: wimp, wimp, wimp-wimp-wimp-wimp-wimp. Each and every one of 'em, pansies.

Henry is in a league all his own, which is cool, and spellbinding, until it's not anymore.

Then, you'll just want it to end...for the dramamine to kick-in and the vertigo and jumpy-jittery action and howling engine noise to cease.

Silence, serenity now, whatever. Nothingness, please. I surrender. You win. Just turn it off, take it all, and go away. 

Hardcore Henry is an impressive circus feat, one not to be ignored, underestimated, or marginalized.

But, like a scalping, it's probably something better left to the imagination, not experienced firsthand.

*** 

p.s. On a much brighter (if not entirely unrelated) note, they played a quiet, sun-drenched, blue sky trailer for The Shallows, which appears to be a conceptual cousin to 2003's wonderfully sparse and deliciously ominous Open Water. Look for it June 24th starring Blake Lively as a beleaguered surfer stranded precipitously on a small reef rock or, more clearly, as shark bait with 200 terrifying yards to go.