You’re a butt-kicking human-robot hybrid, you’re going to get your wife back, and you’re trying to avoid getting captured by a psychopath. And your name is Henry. Godspeed.
Starring Sharlto Copley and Tim Roth, Hardcore Henry is a rip-roaring, action packed amusement park ride for all the film goers who don’t want to hop on an actual roller coaster, and, instead, prefer to have their fun through film. Shot entirely in first-person, this movie really is the first of its kind. With very minimal sequencing, you’re expected to strap in and be the main character, Henry.
Henry kicks off his adventure waking up in some kind of lab. A scientist, Estelle (Hayley Bennett), says she is Henry’s wife, and explains many of the changes to his resurrected body. The two share a brief reunion, before they are attacked by a man with telekinetic powers. Akan is a powerful man with some powerful mercenaries, and he desperately wants to capture Henry – but has to settle for taking Estelle.
Good news is there’s some random mercenary type named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) who wants to help you out. Whether Jimmy is a hippie, homeless man, or total punk, he’s going to do his best to make sure you succeed. Henry does a LOT of things with Jimmy – and solo – that are violent – to try and escape Akan’s clutches. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Breaking some other guy’s neck.
- Throwing a grenade into a moving vehicle as he stands on top of it, then jumping off that vehicle and onto the motorbike of one of your allies.
- Jumping off an overpass without shoes and landing smack dab on top of a parked car.
- Pumping dozens of bullets into anyone who stands in your way – especially if they’re standing right in front of you.
It’s worth noting that this film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, and because of its refreshing style, became involved in a bidding war between three studios.
This is mostly rightfully so.
The experience really is like no other. I sat in the front row for the entire thing, and felt a little queasy (I was also queasy during Cloverfield when I went to go see it in theatres when it first came out) but once you’ve spent a good ten minutes in the hot seat, you should be fine. Those who have a major fear of sensitivities, sit in the back.
The great thing about this film is it is shot thoughtfully. There’s very little sequencing to make the experience genuine, so if you’re running on top of a building, you’re running on top of a building. If you’re talking to someone face-to-face, you’re really having a conversation. This doesn’t feel like your little brother’s amateur BMX movie, shot on two GoPros and edited with hope. Director Ilya Naishuller did a good job of making sure the technical aspects were taken care of.
When the first-time director falls short is making sure the story makes sense. There are a few spots where the story gets a little questionable (why the heck does Akan have telekinetic powers? He’s the only wannabe X-Men character in this entire thing!), and the writing is a bit messy. Sometimes the storyline gets lost in ALL of the fighting, to the point where you’ve forgotten what Henry’s purpose is after all the kicking, screaming and blood.
Fortunately, the acting makes up for the mea culpas. Props to the handful of stunt people who played Henry. A big ‘well done’ to Sharlto Copley, who shines in almost every version of Jimmy he played (my favourite was one I liked to call “Shrubbery Jimmy” – in my interview with Copley he was quick to correct me, and break into the character of Sniper Jimmy – you can hear all of that at the end of this write – all in good fun, by the way!). The dark humour is splendid, and adds another dimension to a movie that really is a brilliant idea.
Is this worth seeing in theatres? Absolutely. The experience alone is worth the price of admission. This movie aimed to step out of the box, and overall, did a dang good job. It’s not going to get the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but it’s certainly a technical wonder. Four Jimmys out of five – and I’m talking about my favourite Jimmy – the “Shrubbery” one. Cheers to you, Sharlto.
HERE’S THE TRAILER: