Hardcore Henry (2016)

It’s like “Smack My Bitch Up“, but for an-hour-and-a-half.

A man wakes up in a Moscow laboratory to learn that he’s been brought back from the dead as a half-human, half-robotic hybrid. He has no memory of his former life, except only what a mysterious woman (Haley Bennett) who claims to be his wife tells him. For one, he finds out that his name is Henry and that he doesn’t have a voice to speak with. But before he can even get his voice activated, a bunch of evil and dangerous thugs storm in, kidnap her, and lay waste to all of the other scientists who are trying to help him out. Eventually though, Henry ends up roaming the streets of Moscow, where he constantly meets up with a fella named Uncle Charlie (Sharlto Copley), someone who takes on many different forms and doesn’t seem to ever die. With Charlie, Henry starts to understand his new abilities and begins to search the city, far and wide, killing almost every person in sight that poses him any threat, so that he can save his wife from mystical psychopath (Danila Kozlovsky), who seems to have ulterior motives in destroying the world.

Or something.

If you have a fear of heights, good luck.
If you have a fear of heights, good luck.

The whole gimmick surrounding Hardcore Henry is that everything is filmed with a GoPro, having us see and experience everything through Henry’s eyes. And like most other gimmick movies, your enjoyment of the actual flick itself relies on whether or not you mind the gimmick in the first place. If you don’t mind the gimmick and feel like it’s interesting, almost ground-breaking way to film full-length feature flicks, let alone, action ones, then yeah, Hardcore Henry may be your cup of tea. However, if you think it’s just a manipulative way of making some very dry and conventional material appear to be more than just that and do mind the gimmick, then yeah, Hardcore Henry won’t be for you.

Just as it wasn’t for me.

And honestly, I’m surprised by that. For one, I don’t mind gimmick movies, so long as they make sense in the grander scheme of things and actually make the movie more of an interesting watch. All of the found-footage movies that have been shoved down our throats since Paranormal Activity hit the big screen haven’t so much as bothered me, as much as they have gotten lazier and lazier as time has progressed and the inventiveness of the formula went down the tubes. Gimmick movies don’t have to be manipulative, nor do they have to be bad, they just have to make sense of themselves and give the audience any reason to actually care, which is why I haven’t had much of a problem with the found-footage flicks, so long as they were actually good and seemed to do something the least bit compelling with what they were presenting as “new”, or “ground-breaking”.

That’s why Hardcore Henry, despite it trying to do something new, interesting and compelling, also doesn’t quite work. It’s gimmick in that everything is filmed in the first-person doesn’t ever make much sense, except that it’s supposed to make all of the gruesome and hectic violence appear more crazy and insane. That does the ticket, however, for all of the wrong reasons. One of the main reasons why so many people have an issue with the found-footage movies is that a lot of them rely on the actual actors themselves, holding the cameras and moving along with them everywhere they go. Obviously, this gives a greater sense of realism, but it also makes the camera move more frantically, give people headaches, and not actually allow for anything to be seen.

Basically, all you have is a lot of shaking and moving around, but without anything actually being seen or enjoyed.

That’s the same issue I had with Hardcore Henry. While Henry himself may be running, jumping, flying, soaring, kicking, punching and going all over Moscow, we hardly actually see anything. When Henry is sitting still and looking all around him, we can see everything because the camera itself is still. However, when Henry is engaging in some sort of action, everything is shot and moved around in such a frenzied way, that it’s hard to make up what’s actually going on and/or whom is doing what to whom. We hear a lot of crunching, breaking, and shooting that seem to imply that there’s some sort of brutal violence occurring, but we hardly see it. The times we do see it, it’s raw and disgusting, in the right ways, too, but it’s very rare when we do.

If you have a fear of law enforcement, good luck.
If you have a fear of law enforcement, good luck.

This leads me to wonder the simple question: Why can’t Hardcore Henry just be another action flick filmed in the conventional, yet simple manner? I get that the appeal of the movie is that everything is seen in the first-person, making you feel as if you’re actually in the mind of a savage, robotic killer, but the fact that the movie is relying on this gimmick actually ruins it. There’s no denying that there’s a true and fun bit of energy surrounding this movie and the way it approaches all of the cruel and ballistic violence it has, but it’s all channeled through a gimmick that not only brings confusion, but ultimately, doesn’t work.

The other parts of the movie that do work, like Sharlto Copley’s appearances, all feel thrown into a flick that wants to have fun with them, but ultimately, fall back on a crutch that brings us right back to the gimmick. It’s not a terrible gimmick to have, but it also feels like you’re watching a video-game; the kind of video-game that may be fun, however, because you’re not playing it and somebody else is, it doesn’t really matter what happens. You’re just sitting there, awaiting your turn, and expecting that person to die or fall at any time so that they can give up the controller and you can have your time.

Except that you never have your turn. The movie ends without you ever having your fun, but instead, watching and dealing with the fact that somebody else got the chance to play, and you didn’t, and may never get the opportunity again.

Now, does that sound like fun to you?

Consensus: Even with its frantic and fun energy, Hardcore Henry still can’t get past its distracting, sometimes infuriating and always confusing gimmick that doesn’t offer much, except nausea and disappointment.

3 / 10

If you have a fear of murder and/or death, especially good luck with that one.
If you have a fear of murder and/or death, especially good luck with that one.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


  1. While I try to see everything, I think I’ll give this one a miss. All the reasons you give tell me that it’s not for me. Great review!

  2. Nice review! I’ve seen a lot of mixed things about this film. I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing about whether I want to see this or not, still can’t decide but I think…I think I might just give it a miss. Looks a bit too much for me.

  3. Thanks for seeing this one so I didn’t have to. Lol. I am so glad that you reviewed it so I could get a glimpse into the sheer spectacle of it all. When my friend and I were watching “The Boss” Thursday night, she referred to Henry as “FPS: the Movie” hahaha. An all too accurate title.

  4. I don’t plan on seeing this one for reasons you’re probably well-aware of, haha. What the trailer made me think of though when I saw it (as well as the screenshots you’ve provided), is that they were trying to go for a first-person video game type of feel? So I guess for anyone who always wants to play this type of game but is never able to finish it due to it being too difficult or something, maybe this is something they might want to see to make up for that. Who knows. I’m not surprised that it wasn’t particularly appealing though.

  5. You know, it reminds me of a first person shooter game. You like it when it’s yourself playing, however, if you’re going to watch someone else play it you can only stand to watch about 10 minutes or so.

  6. I have a feeling this will give me motion sickness, like the ‘Simpsons’ ride at Florida did. If I see it, I’ll come armed with a sick bucket and a bag of sand.

  7. I thought that Hardcore Henry showed some moments of promise, mainly for its manic energy and brilliant use of Sharlto Copley, but it wasn’t for me either. I agree with you about gimmick movies needing to make sense on their own. This one mostly doesn’t make sense because its plot is so batty. Also because it’s so hard to see anything that’s happening, as you mention. I like your analogy about watching someone else play a video game without getting your turn. It’s very apt.

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