“It’s a mad world” Hardcore Henry review


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By Rob Stoakes

Video games, as I’ve said in the past, are far, far better than films.

Let’s face it, video games have much better subject matter. This is a medium where plumbers fight turtles for coins, terrorists use robot dinosaurs and a town can kill someone with their own repressed sexuality. Also, games demand far more of the audience. The film doesn’t know if you’re paying attention or not. No film has ever stopped and asked you if you’ve understood the themes and motifs, and refused to play if you didn’t answer correctly.

Now the world of film isn’t very happy about this, which is why most films about video games suck, and suck hard. Gamer, Pixels, Hackers, this is a serious collection of dreck. There are exactly three that are genuinely good, and it’s not like they’ve got a very high bar to vault. There’s Wargames, which is older than most video games, then there’s Indie Game the Movie, a documentary of interest to people who wear red t-shirts just because Gabe Newell does, and now there’s a film that doesn’t actually have the words “video game” in it at all; Hardcore Henry.

Hardcore Henry’s plot is in no way linked to video games, but the film itself is absolutely swimming in video game minutia. Much has been made of the whole film being in first person, but it goes much, much further. Henry himself being a near-indestructible mute? Check. The bad guy having superpowers that is never explained? Check. Hordes of faceless baddies who could cure cancer and you’d still want to punch in the face? Check and reveal mate, black takes the win.

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Sharlto Copley. Photo by STX Productions LLC.

There are more specific touches, like the scenery looking like certain levels from famous games, but the biggest nods to games are thematic. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, some predictable and some not (I genuinely didn’t see what was coming with the incredibly strange “Jimmy”, but I could’ve guessed the shock twist ending if I had seen a completely different film by accident) that the gamers in the audience will instantly understand, and it takes plenty of pot-shots at our tendency to kill hundreds of people basically because we’re told to by a comfortable authority figure. However, with the very jovial and silly tone of the film and the competent but incredibly hammy acting, it’s not so much a condemning gut-punch as it is a cheeky elbow to the ribs; Persepolis this is not.

Yes, as it turns out, a film named Hardcore Henry is very silly, at least in terms of content. Just re-read the above paragraphs for some of the lunacy that goes on in this film. It is also an incredibly bloody film; Deadpool looks like Snow White compared to Hardcore Henry. However, the film-making itself has been taken seriously. As difficult as it is with a film shot entirely from first person, you can always tell exactly where everyone else is in relation to one another. There are films not shot from the perspective of a human eyeball where that isn’t the case.

It’s also stunning, which is odd considering it’s set in Russia, one of the few places to make Britain appear pleasing rather than as a stony grey blob covered in smoke and rain. The only part that falls flat is the action itself which, while shot amazingly given the circumstances, is just that little bit uninspiring besides the gallons of gore.

Hardcore Henry is not for everyone. I’m not even sure if it’s for anyone besides the director. It’s a mad film that feels more like a student experiment than a real blockbuster. I suppose that’s why Naishuller’s inexperience with action shines through. However, for what he has set out to do, the creator of this weird experiment has succeeded in at least making a very entertaining, at times thought-provoking but mostly fun flick. However, I think Hardcore Henry the game might’ve been better, because games are always better than movies.

Unless they’re based on movies. Then they’re pants; ET on Atari, anyone?

Category Scoring out of 5 ⭐
Story/Plot ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Acting/Vocal Performance ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Special Effects/Cinematography ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Soundtrack ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Costume/Design ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Script/Dialogue ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
OVERALL RATING ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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