Ilya Naishuller's Hardcore Henry is a painful cinematic experience, ruining its POV approach within 20 minutes and then settling on a story that makes no sense at all. This is why video games should remain video games.
There are bad movies and then there are horrible movies. And then there’s Hardcore Henry — Ilya Naishuller‘s POV action flick that plays out more like a half-cooked concept for the next Call of Duty film than an actual film with a comprehensible story. Hardcore Henry is a poorly-edited music video on crack, shot with hypertension and probably written on a used napkin with a crayon. Why bother?
Seriously, it pains me to say this, but Hardcore Henry is complete garbage. It presents a unique concept, which is that of a film entirely presented in POV or first person if you’re not familiar with the term. It’s also an R-rated action flick, which promises flying bullets and lots of bloodshed, yet none of it amounts to anything nearly as exciting as the trailer and general concept.
Director Ilya Naishuller shoots the film on what looks like an outdated GoPro, with plenty of pixelation and hard to see sequences that are honestly choreographed impressively, but shot and presented in a way that sort of makes none of it matter.
The film is a rough and ugly attempt at being different and it would’ve maybe worked had there been an actual script involved. The story makes absolutely no sense and spends most of its time bouncing back and forth on a whole crew of detestable and one-dimensional characters.
There’s no real sense of urgency or need, which kills the films steam early on and keeps it from ever becoming something more than a half-baked idea that sounded really cool, but lost its luster sometime between shooting the film and editing it.
The titular Henry is a joke of a hero, simply existing as a way of channeling us (the viewers) into the film or video game as it appears to be. But it doesn’t work.
The entire point of a video game is to feel like you’re in control of the action and adventure. That’s what makes it exciting. That’s what makes it grab your attention and never let go.
But when you take that away you’re simply left with a film (or game) that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I will admit that video games have come along way and have started to blend in some amazing stories with even better-looking visuals, but Hardcore Henry isn’t one of those movie/game hybrids.
It acts like an outdated shoot ’em up action video game, without ever introducing its own brand or flavor. It plays out like the most boring version of Call of Duty and it packs not a single punch.
Guys like Neveldine/Taylor have managed to make shaky-cam action masterpieces that play out almost like a real-life video game in films like Crank or Gamer, yet Naishuller’s film contains no beating heart or drive to make the film continue down its predictably dumb path.
I felt motion sickness after leaving the film, which has never happened to me before. I had no problems with Cloverfield on a giant monster screen or The Blaire Witch Project or countless other shaky cam horror flicks, yet Hardcore Henry had me confused, sick and pissed off throughout the entire experience.
It’s not just a waste of time or money, but also a waste of a perfectly fine cast that does the required bare minimum to trek the film along, not to mention the waste of a decent concept that could’ve been executed better if in more experienced hands.