When I figured out the message in the opening two minutes of “Hardcore Henry” literally was, “Don’t be a pussy,” I immediately lowered my expectations. I still embraced the mayhem and Sharlto Copley’s wicked performance.
The whole movie is told from the first-person perspective of Henry, who wakes up in a lab and finds he’s now an android. His wife Estelle (Haley Bennett) is then abducted by an eccentric terrorist with telekinesis named Akan and must battle his army with the help of Jimmy (Copley).
“Hardcore Henry” is a dizzying, bizarre, and bloody good time! Director Ilya Naishuller applies video game aesthetics to an action movie that’s reminiscent of the 1995 thriller “Strange Days” and the “Half Life” video game series.
We don’t see Henry at all, which docks a few points since we don’t get to know our protagonist, but that’s okay because Sharlto Copley steals every scene he’s in! Jimmy is a versatile character who’s part suited agent, hippy, bum, punk, nerd, cokehead, and British soldier. He’s the film’s main source of humor, charisma, and exposition. I’d argue that he’s our main hero.
The action is thrilling and often has frenetic and gory results. Through Henry’s perspective, he blows up cars and flies off of them, rips a guy’s junk off, throws someone into a fan, and pulls some insane stunt work on a helicopter. It’s impressive action since most of the stunts are performed by either the cinematographer or Naishuller himself.
In terms of narrative, “Hardcore Henry”mildly stinks. There’s a predictable twist halfway into the movie with Estelle, and Akan’s plot makes little sense, but we aren’t here for the plot, are we? We’re here for a non-stop adrenaline rush featuring a brawl with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” as background music.
I wouldn’t watch “Hardcore Henry” again by any means since this movie made me feel hungover right after I recovered from a hangover. But it’s a badass 90 minutes that everyone should experience once.