Film review: Hardcore Henry seeks to invoke feel of first-person shooter games but gets stale fast
The concept is unique in cinema, but it soon becomes a gimmick as endless scenes of ultra-violence play out one after another
High-concept but low on morals, Hardcore Henry is an ultra-violent action thriller shot entirely from a first-person perspective. Henry is played not by a single actor, but by stuntmen and camera crew – and he’s never seen in full. We just glimpse his arms, legs and body in front of the camera as he runs and guns through an urban landscape, slicing up bad guys.
Replicating first-person shooter video games such as the hugely popular Call of Duty series, it’s also reminiscent of The Prodigy’s promo for Smack My Bitch Up, during which we see first-hand a rather decadent night on the tiles through the eyes of a reveller.
Henry starts the film in surgery, missing limbs replaced with mechanical duplicates like a latter day RoboCop. The film doesn’t pause for breath as the increasingly resilient Henry comes under attack from an albino psycho named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and his myriad minions. He fights, he stabs, he shoots, he gouges ... there isn’t a means of murder Henry doesn’t try in this excessive orgy of Looney Tunes cartoon violence.
Written and directed by debutant Ilya Naishuller, the filmmaking is bold and executed with confidence, but the breakneck narrative soon loses its appeal. District 9 star Sharlto Copley, playing Jimmy, a shape-shifting contact Henry meets along the way, provides some much-needed humour. But it’s not enough to get you through 96 minutes of mayhem.
True, it’s likely to appeal to teenagers – assuming you can drag them from their games consoles – but for the rest of us, Hardcore Henry is like sensory assault and battery.
Hardcore Henry opens on April 21
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