Hardcore Henry Film Review

promo pic for Hardcore Henry film
   Rules, they say, are made to be broken.

   Yet, it must be stated, in the majority of cases in which we observe orthodoxies being smashed, it is easy to conclude that rules are set in place for very good reason. They exist to help, not hinder, the creative process.

   Take, for example, Hardcore Henry.

  Whilst most movies are assembled to make certain that the visuals employed throughout are the ones best suited to the story they serve to tell, Ilya Naishuller seems to have created a system which works in the opposite manner to that. Here, he has sculpted a film in which aesthetic gimmickry is the foremost of his concerns and in which a narrative has clearly been retrofitted onto his novelty visual ideals.

   In many ways, the story we are presented with in Hardcore Henry, as flimsy as it is, takes the form of a straightforward action adventure tale - unfortunately, one not plucked from modern cinema but, rather, the unevolved days of early computer gaming. This is yet one more instance of a hero battling bad guys to rescue a damsel in distress - the arch-villain here being a telekinetic warlord who dabbles with bio-engineering soldiers, whilst the hapless female in this instance is Henry's wife.


   That the lack of a real, emotionally driven plot is the least of Hardcore Henry's issues is rather telling. Like Cinerama, for example, the novel presentation of the feature may seem to mark it out as an interesting curio but, for all barring those with military-grade endurance levels, the visual onslaught of Naishuller's movie and Sharlto Copley's excruciating performance(s) make this an experience to persevere through rather than enjoy.

   The novel uses of the film's camera, the crux and raison d'etre of the movie, are ripped straight from a primitive first-person shooter. Everything we see on screen is shown from the perspective of the titular Henry. The action whizzes and blurs past our eyes and, rather than tantalise or excite us, the world we witness quickly becomes nauseating. Rather than pump us with adrenaline, the longer the increasingly blurry action sequences go on for, the more we are thrown into a catatonic state as our brains switch off - its hard to visually comprehend what is occurring on-screen whilst there is little to nothing to engage with on a cerebral or emotional level.

   This isn't so much as a noble experiment but, rather, something of a nightmare to experience. All bar one woman we meet in the film is a stripper or a whore and the role of men is to prove might makes right with their technological expertise - way to be hardcore, Henry! How about a couple of homophobic insults thrown into the script for good measure too?


   Naishuller's movie very much feels like the whole thing has been conceived by a misogynistic thirteen year old who wants to make women suffer for not showing an interest in him; computer games, sadly, are the only means by which this hypothetical child can express his infantile rage. It is easy to assume, too, that the target audience here are the anti-Sarkeesian mob who make up the Gamergate community and whose love for regressive gender roles are matched solely by their passion for the worst of inane and vacuous gaming.

   After watching the film, I felt sad. It would be nice if people tempted to make movies like this stopped playing their violent computer games and spent more time talking to real-life women. They're not all scary and some of them, when you get to know them, are pretty cool.
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