"Hardcore Henry" is far from hardcore: 1/5 stars

hardcore “Hardcore Henry” marks the beginning of something of a filmmaking revolution. The film is presented entirely from a first-person perspective, making it one of the most technically impressive and innovative action films in years. After generating over $250,000 in Indiegogo hype money based on a sampling of what the film would offer in a 2013 music video (now viewed over 33 million times on YouTube), “Hardcore Henry” was poised to revolutionize the modern action flick… But didn’t. In fact, it failed miserably at revolutionizing anything. The film does succeed, however, in being a shockingly misogynistic and derivative snooze-fest. So how does a film with so much technical potential ruin its chances of becoming a cinematic hallmark of innovation? Let’s start from the beginning. The film opens and we are given our first look from the titular protagonist’s (Henry’s) perspective: A shot of a woman awakening him from cryogenically induced sleep and filling in all the gaps in his memory. The woman, we learn, is his wife, Estelle. She is a scientist who has been forced to work for a generic Saturday-morning-cartoon villain (Akan) in order to save him after a terrible accident. The whole process of which has left Henry with cyber-genetic enhancements and no memories of how he got there. However, before Henry and Estelle can get too comfortable, Akan and his soldiers burst in, kidnap Estelle, and leave Henry for dead. To save his wife, Henry teams up with an eccentric (and mysteriously unkillable) sidekick, Jimmy, who knows more about Henry’s past than he lets on. As all of this plays out, Henry kills more and more of Akan’s goons (a cornucopia of non-descript Russian grunts) in a series of visually stunning first-person action sequences. Like I mentioned before, the entire film is presented from Henry’s perspective. What we see is what Henry sees. A facet which is no doubt the most impressive and notable feature of the movie. Yet all of “Hardcore Henry”’s technical achievements are eclipsed by the generic, two-dimensional nature of its plot and characters. The story is what you would expect of any generic action movie: A hero has to save a damsel in distress from an evil villain. The situations are just so dull. Yes, they’re shown in a visually unique and interesting way, but the audience is never given any real reason to care about what happens to the characters. Speaking of characters, you’ve got your standard array of action movie tropes here. There’s the badass hero and his wacky sidekick Jimmy, played in a highlight performance by Sharlto Copley. They fight against the over-the-top villain Akan, played in a ho-hum turn from relative newcomer Danila Kozlovsky, to save the damsel in distress, played by rising star Haley Bennet. Most of the actors do a fine job, but given material this lifeless it’s hard to elevate performances past anything other than a living breathing trope. The damsel in distress trope is the main motivator in “Hardcore Henry” and keeps the plot moving. Without Estelle, Henry would have no reason to continue to chase Akan. However, Henry’s damsel-driven determination seems pretty standard and would not in itself ruin the film, but it is the other instances of blatant misogyny that elevate this film from being merely boring to outright disgusting. Countless examples of women being objectified can be seen throughout the film, as the first person camera locks on to any instances of roaming cleavage or naked breasts. I’m usually inclined to give filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, but every single woman in this film appears in a sexual context. As a result, “Hardcore Henry” is a display of innovative and technical filmmaking and not much else. The most disappointing thing about “Hardcore Henry” is the potential it had to be brilliant. What could have been a revolutionary benchmark of immersive filmmaking now more resembles a fifteen-year old’s monster-induced fever dream.