“Hardcore Henry” is a film that honestly may be the first of it’s kind. The gimmick of this hyper-kinetic action movie is that the entire film has been shot in the first-person. It appears as though we are looking out of the protagonist’s eyes as he leaps from moving cars, outruns explosions, and beats down on bad guys in increasingly brutal ways. Now, don’t get me wrong, first person perspective in movies has been done before. “Lady in the Lake,” “Enter The Void,” “Maniac,” and arguably the slew of found footage movies such as “Paranormal Activity.” However, I cannot for the life of me think of another ACTION film that attempts to depict its entire narrative in this manner.
Unfortunately, “Hardcore Henry” is so bad that it acts as a compelling argument as to why another one should never be made.
The characters are beyond one-dimensional. Mathematics has yet to determine just what space these characters inhabit. Their lack of personality is perfectly encapsulated by Henry’s inability to speak. That’s right, the main character of the movie, through whose eyes you view every event of the film, cannot speak. He cannot speak, you can’t see his face to read his expressions, and on top of that, he’s an amnesiac so we have no idea where he came from in the first place. All we know Henry by are the actions he performs over the course of the film. And these actions can be boiled down to shaking his head, making crude gestures with his hands, and killing assailants in increasingly over-the top ways. This kind of “silent protagonist” is relatively commonplace in video games. But, if “Hardcore Henry” teaches us anything, it’s that what works in games does not necessarily work in film.
The film’s plotting is equally slavish to the conventions of video games. Largely Henry’s motivation for doing anything can be summarized as “because someone told him to.” Multiple times throughout the film Henry receives a call on his cell-phone informing him that he must travel from point A to point B in order to obtain C. While en-route Henry inevitably encounters hordes of bad guys that he is forced to pummel into submission in order to proceed. Unsurprisingly, this repetitive structure gets old fast.
In the end,“Hardcore Henry” is an action film that attempts to recreate the feeling of playing a first-person shooter video game. Unfortunately, the only feeling it manages to recreate is the one where your game goes into a cut scene leaving you jamming on the “A” button hoping to skip it.
Final Verdict: Thumbs down.