Hardcore Henry

GoPro Action Movies

Posted in Movie Reviews on April 08, 2016
Prod 41

Ilya Naishuller

Running Time
96 min

A first-person action film from the eyes of Henry, who's resurrected from death with no memory. He must discover his identity and save his wife from a warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

Kickstarter is not the place you’d expect to fundraise your budget for a feature film, much less a good one. Despite all those odds, Hardcore Henry offers an exhilarating proof of concept, one that does not need a $250 million dollar budget or an A* star cast listing, but a couple of GoPros and an eye of innovation. Much like a rollercoaster or an arcade game, the film swiftly keeps itself going as to not dwell too much on plot or its characters, which while fundamental, can detract from the experience Russian newcomer director Ilya Naishuller aims to project. Filmed entirely from a first person point of view, Hardcore Henry is the euphoric virtual reality experience we all dream about but have not quite reached yet.

Story in Hardcore Henry may seem simpleton enough to dissuade audiences into giving the film a go, but it’s original and hilarious enough to keep you hooked to the end with a bittersweet twist. Plot devices in the film drive you from Point A to Point B and so forth with an overarching objective to rescue your wife from an evil madman with some obscure desire to create his own cyborg army. It’s quite an homage to old school Call of Duty, except you’re watching somebody else play the campaign. Naishuller manages to balance just the right cohesion between humour and drama in his shoot-em-up style film so as to be not disregarded as over the top but also not to be taken too seriously. The film’s story is really serves as a means to an end and during an era in which Hollywood action movies seemingly come from the same melting pot of clichés and repetitive stunts, Hardcore Henry isn’t afraid to sacrifice certain details of its story to reinforce its stimulatingly innovative visual experience to the viewer.

It’s kind of difficult to talk about acting when the protagonist of it all acts as a medium between audiences and the Hardcore experience. If anything could be said for the presumably formidable stunt actor, it’s his adequate sharpshooter aim and passion for breaking bones. As for the supporting cast, few might be able to identify actor Sharlto Copley who made his career by appearing in director Neil Blomkamp’s film trilogy. It is he who ultimately holds the burden of the film’s performance on his shoulders as he has the biggest part of the film. Needless to say, his talent is reflected in the enthusiasm and charisma he brings into every scene he’s in, seamlessly transitioning between his humoristic personas into more heartfelt ones. Other cast members are mostly newcomers and satisfy the roles they’re given, coloring within the lines moreover than adding any memorable touch to their characters.

Last but not least, Hardcore Henry’s unique selling point: its cinematography. The innovative first person point of view is indeed a radical and moving idea when it comes to action movies. We’ve seen games play out like movies, just check out Heavy Rain or L.A. Noire, but this is perhaps the first time a movie has played out like a game. It takes a while to adjust to the shakiness of the camera when our hero is running furiously through hallways or parkouring on the crowded Russian streets, but surprisingly creates a more intimate experience between the viewer and the film. Filmed almost entirely using GoPro cameras, one can truly appreciate the reality of the stunts as opposed to the usual CGI fest and the crisp quality for such low-budget cameras. Its 96 minute run-time is filled with blood spattering action packed set pieces and although one can certainly notice the budget strains in the visual effects, it is not significant enough to derail a viewer’s enjoyment of the film’s original and hilarious experience.

Whether POV filmmaking will be to action movies what found footage was to horror is still too early to tell but what is certain is that Hardcore Henry is an experience you cannot miss. Hardcore Henry is not a trendsetter, it won’t win any awards, and certainly won’t reach a billion dollars in the box office, but what this hidden gem is is a reminder, a reminder that creativity does not stem from the size of your budget and that the action movie genre has not saturated yet, merely the goliaths of Hollywood executives have. 

In Summary

The Good
  • Innovative First Person Perspective
  • Copley's Charismatic Performance
  • Thrilling Action Packed Pace
The Bad
  • Neglectful Storytelling