“Hardcore Henry,” a new in-your-face voyeuristic violent fantasy starring Sharlto Copley, is the first movie of the year that should come with a medical advisory. It is such a visceral You Are There experience, I fear the rollercoaster cinematography may not only cause nausea, but also sleep disturbance, constipation, flatulence, and vomiting.
You’ve been warned.
Shot from the perspective of the main character, the story begins with Henry strapped to a gurney. He’s in rough shape, missing an arm or two, a leg and who knows what else. Luckily he’s under the care of his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett), a brilliant doctor who not only supplies tender loving care but prosthetic limbs as well. When she is done he’s a modern-day Six Million Dollar Man, part cyborg, part human. Just as she’s about to insert his vocal chip all hell breaks loose and he’s forced to make a daring escape. Separated from Estelle he finds an ally in a mysterious and resilient man named Jimmy (Copley) who helps him track her down.
Cue the carnage—parkour, tanks, fist fighting, gunplay, testicle squeezing, grenades, no form of combat is ignored. Remember, this is all shot from his point of view in a blur of fists, bullets and blood. It’s capital ‘V’ violent.
Depending on your POV “Hardcore Henry” either plays like a fun, inventive twist on the action genre or a demo to illustrate director Ilya Naishuller’s abilities at staging action scenes. His style is fleet-footed, undeniably male—for no good reason, other than titillation, he sets one bloody scene in a brothel—and ham-fisted. There is creative use subtitles in one frenzied scene and the odd kill that’ll make you sit up and take notice, but it is such an orgy of ultra violence that by the end I was feeling desensitized to Henry’s antics.
Gamers will find “Hardcore Henry’s” first person technique familiar, but at ninety minutes the film feels like an idea that overstays its welcome by at least half-an-hour.