Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hardcore Henry (2016): Review

Hardcore Henry is a 2016 action film. Written and directed by Ilya Naishuller and starring Sharlto Copley (District 9, Chappie), Haley Bennett (The Equalizer) and Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs). The movie is filmed almost entirely in the first person perspective using GoPro cameras.

The film opens from the pov of the titular cyborg Henry as he's strapped down in a mysterious laboratory and being tended to by his wife Estelle (Bennett). Things quickly take a turn for the worse as the lab is stormed by evil telekinetic albino Akan, as he has come to take back his technology ie Henry. Following a spectacular plummet from the lab (that's right, we're on an aeroplane) Henry is forced to go on the run in Moscow as almost everybody tries to kill him. His only hope is the chameleon like Jimmy (Copley), who appears in a variety of guises in order to help Henry survive, kill the bad guy and get the girl.

Hardcore Henry feels like someone watched the pov sequences in Robocop(1987) and Terminator (1984) and thought, hang on...we can do more with this! And indeed that's what the opening scenes feel like with Henry being "rebuilt" before your very eyes. However, as soon as Henry drops out into the real world, the pace picks up in a very big and very modern way and we are plunged head first into a post The Raid (2011) world of action. In fact, I don't feel I can really get across just how frantic the pace is in this movie, it barely lets up for a single minute! You might think that would get old after a while but it really doesn't and the well crafted pace and momentum of the film is what keeps it fun and thoroughly entertaining throughout.

The only problem with having an unseen and unheard protagonist is that there is no character to relate to during all this mayhem, that's where Copley steps in! Adding another impressive performance to his collection, Copley plays a dozen different versions of the same character called Jimmy (for reasons which I won't reveal) ranging from an angry punk to a WW2 Tommy and is absolutely the glue that holds the movie together. Sure, the Akan character is a fun twist on the typical Russian supervillain but the various appearances of Jimmy help to keep the movie interesting where otherwise it might lapse into repetitive parkour and gunplay. A particular musical number towards the end of the film performed by half a dozen Jimmys is proof alone of the actors huge talents and should garner awards interest.

Almost a live action video game, that you can't play but very much feel a part of, Hardcore Henry is a groundbreaking genre piece that pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved in a modern day action movie as well as in filmmaking as a whole. I haven't had this kind of jaw dropping action experience since the masterpiece that is The Raid 2(2014), and even then, this offers a lot more in the way of levity and humour. The most fun you can have while pretending to be a cyborg super soldier!

***** 5 Stars

What did you think of the movie? Did you like the pov style?


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