Gamers will love this first-person frenzy of violence and death; everyone else probably not so much. 2 out of 5.
Hardcore Henry is an action film told from a first-person perspective: You see everything through Henry's eyes, so basically you are Henry. You have no memory, probably because you've just been revived by your wife (Haley Bennett), and then BAM! Things go very badly, very fast. Before you know it you have to save your wife from a creep named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a warlord with weird powers. To make matters worse, everybody is trying to kill you, except for an odd Brit named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who keeps turning up. Can you trust him? Who is he? Who are you, for that matter? If you can stay alive long enough, maybe you’ll find out.
Shot with a GoPro® camera, the first-person perspective really is pretty slick, at least until it makes you queasy. If you've ever wondered what life would look like from an action hero's perspective, this is it. The plot—and there is one—has Henry wake up with no memory, so he and the audience figure out what's going on at the same time. It's not the first time that device has been used, but it works here. But the bright spot of the show is Jimmy, who provides much-needed comic relief even as he helps Henry carry out his mission... (or does he?).
I’m not opposed to watching characters die on screen, even violently when the story calls for it. But my guess is that 80 of the film's 96 minutes are devoted to savage, bloody death (I’d say 10 more minutes were given over to sex, and the remaining 6, amazingly, managed to move the story along without anyone losing a limb or engaging in erotic acts). There was impressive creativity in the multiple methods of killing, but after a while it just got kind of boring.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
I could make a case that Henry's problems stem from the villain's Satan-esque pride and desire for ultimate power... but really, the whole thing is merely about survival at any cost. There's a teeny bit of self-sacrifice, too, but mostly it’s kill-or-be-killed.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: R for non-stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use
- Language/Profanity: Henry isn't the only thing that’s hardcore; the language is also rough. All the usual expletives make multiple appearances, with the 'harder' ones (f-bombs, sexual slurs, and such) being the most favored.
- Sexuality/Nudity: An extended scene takes place in a strip club/brothel; it involves women and men clad in scant undergarments (or none at all), several implied orgies, and the like. It appears that one woman, maybe more, has sex with Henry. In other scenes, policemen are caught in the act of rape and another slimy character cops several feels of Henry's wife.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: It's pretty much non-stop violence, including numerous slow-motion killings played for comic effect. The video game quality of the movie helps keep the violence somewhat imagined, but this is definitely not one for the squeamish. If watching a bullet enter a brain or a knife slice through someone's neck is not your cup of tea, you won't get past the opening credits.
Drugs/Alcohol: Honestly, the violence overshadowed everything so much I didn't notice any alcohol other than some used for medical purposes, but it's likely somebody (probably Jimmy) had a drink or five along the way. The ratings mention drugs, so someone (again, probably Jimmy) must have done some between shooting, punching, decapitating, etc. Henry does inject himself with much-needed adrenaline before yet another battle.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Gamers, particularly those who enjoy playing soldier-themed games; film aficionados who want to check out the cool first-person perspective; guys' night out; movie-goers who are themselves on the hardcore side.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Children; date night (seriously, guys. Unless she whips your tail at Call of Duty, this is not your best option); anyone who suffers from motion sickness and/or prefers movies with where characters talk more than they kill.
Hardcore Henry, directed by Ilya Naishuller, opened in theaters April 8, 2016; available for home viewing July 26, 2016. It runs 96 minutes and stars Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Tim Roth, Cyrus Arnold, Will Foster Stewart and Haley Bennett. Watch the trailer for Hardcore Henry here.
Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).
Publication date: April 7, 2016