Fast paced action films that can nicely link themselves into a genre they both embody and mock are a niche branch of film that I thoroughly enjoy. Hardcore Henry looks to slot into a style of film that I’ve oddly paired with that of Kung Fury, mock takes that take the proceedings of your standard action affair a step too far with bawdy ideas and incredibly funny or bizarre predicaments. Although these bizarre predicaments are available to us in Ilya Naishueller’s directorial debut, he sets himself too many obstacles and crashes through in what is a high octane mediocre snoozefest.
A film that has a plot more suited to that of a videogame, Hardcore Henry will appeal to those that enjoy a rough first-person shooter every now and then. Henry is a cyborg, and the villainous powers that be have kidnapped his wife, so as expected he sprints off to collect her, meeting a variety of friends and foes along the way. It’s a shame that nobody sticks around for too long, the editing of the film making it feel like real time can truly hinder the storytelling throughout. Spend too long with one character and there’s too much static in the way of exciting action; but if we’re spending too little with protagonists and antagonists, any sense of drama or depth is lost entirely.
There’s no denying the energy that the film brings us, an inarguable excuse to try out dangerous and impressive parkour tricks, up close choreography and amazing stunts. What Hardcore Henry can bring us in innovative and thoroughly entertaining angles and shots is somewhat stilted by a vomit-inducing shaky camera and a transparent plot. Even a simpler plot would’ve made the proceedings more bearable, because then at least we’d have the excuse of such a simplistic plot.
But rather than innovating in slow, timid steps, Hardcore Henry throws everything it can at the wall as fast as possible in a messy display of great ideas and poor concepts. For that reason alone, I can really respect what they were trying to do, and I can rarely dole out respect for films that have disappointed me. The sheer tenacity of the whole film is impressive enough to cover up a fair few larger blemishes the storyline and clunky camerawork may induce.
Worth watching more for the inventive nature of the film rather than that of any substance or intriguing commentaries and messages. Hardcore Henry gets the job done, and the overabundance of attempted inspiration is far too much for the film to handle, getting bogged down in consistent misfires that carry through the entire film.