I find it difficult to talk about Hardcore Henry (HH) because I am not the target audience. The film is a love letter to videogames with the first person perspective, but I am so desensitized from years upon years of consuming such media that I am unshaken by the content. Killing, blood, guts, and shooting come with the territory. After Deadpool came out I struggled to reason why everyone thought it was so extreme because I was completely unfazed. This time I will do my best to separate my natural bias and regard HH from the perspective of somebody that did not laugh in Green Inferno.
After walking up mute and amnesiac with cybernetic enhancements, Henry finds himself in the middle of conspiracy involving a corporation led by Akan, played by Danila Kozlovsky, who kidnapped his wife and wants him dead. With the help of Jimmy, played by Sharlto Copley, Henry tries to find answers.
HH has a lot in common with the Crank movies in that the conflict of the story is an excuse for ultra violence. The enemies Henry fights are cyborgs and faceless soldiers that want to kill him, and he has no choice but to retaliate. Because he is also a cyborg and an implied criminal, he knows how to fight and is adept at parkour. The action scenes are quite fun with a lot of creativity thanks to the perspective and stunts. The perspective also makes the violence personal where you seen the gore and death up close.
As an experience, the first person style makes HH especially empathetic. I find it hard to empathize with movies, but thinking back on it, the amnesia, the fact he cannot speak, and the feeling of being lost grounded you in Henry’s shoes. As an audience member you are also in the dark and trying to figure out what is happening. All the shooting and craziness has an impact because you are technically behind the trigger. It would have been easy for HH to the perspective like Birdman used the long shot, but the videogame tropes help the sense of empathy. That is why first person shooters are so popular and cathartic and it is impressive that a low budget film can inspire the same feeling.
Whoever was behind Henry had some interesting physical moments when he tried to communicate without dialog. Kozlovsky was hilarious with enough charisma to rival Tommy Wiseau and Haley Bennett’s Estelle was just fine. The standout was Copley where (without giving anything away) he played multiple characters with various personalities. He brought the comedy and heart where there was none and it was a lot of fun.
I thought I would have a lot more to say, but as it goes with good movies I keep it short because I want you to see it. I may not have reacted the way Hardcore Henry was intending, but others certainly will. If personal ultra violence is your thing, look no further. If you are afraid of heights, have vertigo, or cannot handle gore, stay home.