By Stephen Fasulo II
Hardcore Henry is not Citizen Kane. It will never be considered the most interesting movie ever made, and it will never be on somebody’s top 10 films of all time unless that person has only seen nine other movies. It is a science fiction thriller with lots of action, almost like any other forgettable low science fiction movie that came out in the last few years: Surrogates, Oblivion, Transcendence, Gamer, Chappie, and Elysium. Hardcore Henry would follow these films into the annals of Netflix a month out of the theater if not for the interesting gimmick, that being the whole film is shot in the first-person.
It is unfortunate that the first film experiment with first-person decides to mute its main character, as gamers have known for years that the silent protagonist can very much alienate as well as endear. It is frustrating because the silent protagonist is supposed to be a way to self-impose yourself onto a character, but there is no way to further the plot without creating reasons for Henry to act, but if he is a self-insert, he can not be too much of a character. So he is silent in voice, but he thinks and acts in his own way, he has flashes of character that are interesting to see. Every time he does something that hints at character, it is annoying that he is not enforcing more of a personality, and we are left with a character with moments where he is a dead fish in sneakers, and others where he is a fully fleshed human.
The story is nothing special, in the distant future, a would-be despot is trying to create a new weapon to take over the world. Enter Henry, the prototype of this weapon, and husband of the scientist who made him into the cyborg. The film then wastes no time separating the two, and the rest of the film follows Henry as he goes off to save his wife from said baddie with only his wits and super strength and durability due to his mechanically enhanced body. This is not a really interesting story, but it has a few twists and turns, and some interesting moments, and it is capable as a way to show the film as what it is, a bunch of set pieces for Henry to shoot his way through in first-person no less.
The gimmick is certainly the selling point, as the only real performance of the film is by Sharlto Copley, who plays a multitude of different roles all under the guise of one character. It is really quite interesting, and the film loses a lot when he exits the film, which is a shame. Hardcore Henry has one selling point, so the only way to make the film stronger is by doing interesting things with the auxiliary parts of the film, and it does a so-so job. The rest of the characters are okay, but do not be fooled by the trailer, Tim Roth appears for the better part of two-minutes.
Hardcore Henry is the first of its kind, but I can not see it being the last. It was fun and enjoyable, as long as you ignore that the main villain has no backstory and unexplained psychic powers–which really bugged me, because why would you make cyborg super soldiers instead of trying to recreate telekinesis–and that it is very stupid in some places. I have always asserted that if something is entertaining, people will watch (one of my movie philosophies), and Hardcore Henry is interesting. I would suggest giving it a watch.