For the last Indie Dive of term, I’m taking over what’s usually Uju’s classier section of the paper where she exposes the hidden gems of film, to talk about what is, at the end of the day, a rather dumb action film (sorry).
The most striking thing about Hardcore Henry is its aesthetic, as it’s shot entirely from the first person perspective of our eponymous hero as he punches, shoots and explodes his way through 96 minutes of increasingly ludicrous but thoroughly entertaining action. More than anything else, the film’s worth seeing purely for the ridiculous ambition of this unique gimmick, which it manages to pull off surprisingly well given the film’s relatively low budget as well as the pure practical challenges of mixing stunts and special effects around this restricted perspective without it deteriorating into a motion sickness inducing vomit-fuelled nightmare. Some of the behind the scenes footage is an absolute joy to watch, as the method for pulling off most of this impressive feat was essentially to stick a couple of GoPros onto a mask and then make the stunt/cameramen fly through the skies, run around on top of buildings and then rappel off them, all in the service of an entertaining variety of action set pieces.
The obvious visual inspiration is that of first-person shooter games like Call of Duty (or an episode of Peep Show where Mark loses it and starts blasting people in the head), but the video game feel goes beyond visuals, for better and worse. The story is simultaneously non-existent but completely ludicrous, centring around Henry’s quest to save his wife from a fantastically campy villain with the aid of his cyborg augmentations and Sharlto Copley playing a variety of crazy companions. Rather than following any sort of traditional three act structure, the film’s all about the various set pieces, to the extent that it almost does feel like ‘levels’ in a video game, including car chases, fistfights, gunfights, tanks, helicopters, snipers, the lot, all leading up to what’s basically a final boss battle when Henry confronts the villain.
To many, this may sound absolutely terrible, and I can kind of understand that sentiment, and this is by no means Mad Max quality of action. But for a knowingly silly, ultraviolent and unashamedly fun little movie, Hardcore Henry is an absolute blast, especially if you’re a loser like me who can appreciate the video game inspirations throughout.
Oh, and there’s a Sharlto Copley song and dance number halfway through, which is as magical as you’d expect.