Hardcore Henry

Review by Paul Preston
The Movie Guys

Well, you missed it.

Hardcore Henry has come and pretty much gone from theaters and you neglected to take in this truly unique moviegoing experience. You look sad. You think I’m attacking you. Well, maybe not “you” specifically, but when a 3,000+ theater release only makes $9 million, that’s not a lot of people going. So, when I say you missed it, chances are well in my favor that you did.

Batman v. SupermanAnd now if you want to make up for your error, Hardcore Henry is tough to find because in a month it has also dropped from 3,000+ theaters to 119. To compare, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opened two weeks previous to Hardcore Henry and can still be found in 2,330 cinemas all while being a steaming pile.

Hardcore Henry is not a steaming pile. But I did have to go to from Burbank to Long Beach to see it, where it is currently playing (along with a Drive-In in City of Industry), although perhaps not by the time this review posts.

For the unaware, Hardcore Henry is from the makers of Biting Elbows’ music video for their song “Bad Motherfucker”. It went viral to the tune of 55,150,000 views and growing. The film should be so lucky to have that kind of audience.

Hardcore HenryDirector Ilya Naishuller is the front man of the band Biting Elbows, now enjoying being called things like “The next Tarantino”. I wouldn’t go that far until a Naishuller movie can handle long stretches of quality dialogue. But the nod to having a unique visual style that delivers up violence in a poetic fashion is on point. Hardcore Henry, like the music video that preceeded it, is a first-person perspective action movie – unlike anything ever attempted before, and now it’s pulled off at feature length. For pulling it off alone, you should have seen this, but to pull it off with creativity riding at maximum volume, it kind of demands to be seen.

The story is out to lunch. The camera P.O.V. is that of Henry’s, a man waking up after surgery that has made him a cyborg. One apparently with hidden fighting skills waiting to be unleashed. Henry’s wife is the mad scientist who created the Henry cyborg and she is soon kidnapped by an evil albino with mutant powers who wants to create an army of Henrys to do his evil bidding. Again, out to lunch, but I’m always reminded by my co-host on The Movie Showcast, Adam Witt, to sometimes see a movie as it presents itself to be seen by you. Hardcore Henry isn’t asking to be evaluated as you would evaluate Twelve Years a Slave.

Hardcore HenryThere’s a checklist of things Hardcore Henry needs to do right:
– Unflinching action at a relentless pace – CHECK.
– Unique moviemaking (in this case, continuing to find new and exciting things to do with the POV concept – CHECK.
– Sense of humor – CHECK (especially the song-and-dance scene. Yes, there’s a song-and-dance scene that is outright hilarious and effective in context).
– Playfulness with its high body count – CHECK.
– Seamless and inventive visual and sound effects – CHECK.

The shaky-cam can be a little off-putting at first, but soon the HOW DID THEY DO THAT?-ed-ness of the whole thing won me over as the heightening, stakes-raising and topping itself become on onslaught of reasons to not stop watching. Another reason is Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team). You probably don’t know your movie needs Sharlto Copley until he’s in your movie at which point you have to wonder how your film would’ve made it without him. He’s continuing a career that refuses to be pidgeonholed.

Hardcore HenryCopley plays Jimmy, who understands Henry’s situation and shows up to help numerous times in the film, appearing to die each time he exits frame. In the end, that part of the plot, at least, makes glorious sense and again the filmmakers have more FUN with it. It’s a gruesome, violent, bloody affair that is an absolute blast.

So, you didn’t see it. But we few, we deliriously happy few, who did, rang up the box office to a paltry $9 million. But at a budget of $2 million with more creativity in it’s pocket than half the $150-$200 million studio behemoths out there – it’s a success!

Directed by: Ilya Naishuller
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Run Time: 96 Minutes
Country: Russia/USA
Rated: R
Distributor: STX Entertainment

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