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  Hardcore Henry First Person Blooter
Year: 2015
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlowski, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth, Andrei Dementiev, Svetlana Ustinova, Darya Charusha, Oleg Poddubnyy, Will Stewart, Ilya Naishuller, Martin Cooke, Ravshana Kurkova, Liya Sitdikova, Polina Filonenko, Aleksandr Pal
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Henry has one memory to hang onto, from when he was a little boy and a gang of bullies shattered his toy robot. His father (Tim Roth) chased them away, crouched down next to his son and broke the news to the kid that he was a little pussy. It's not much when the rest of his mind seems a blank, so when he wakes up on some kind of waterlogged operating table he cannot find his bearings until he notices the scientist there, Estelle (Haley Bennett), who tries to reassure him that she is his wife and she is only doing the best for him by turning him into a cyborg, attaching a robot arm and leg to his body, though his speech mechanism is not able to be activated because as the other boffins are introducing themselves, a psychic madman called Akan (Danila Kozlowski) shows up...

As you can tell from that introduction, this was not your average action movie, but what distinguished it from many of its peers was its adherence to the first person perspective, much in the manner that computer games have implemented for their playing over the past few decades. Possibly because it had such connections to the gaming styles, it had not been used much for the cinema, even in those much-maligned adaptations of them (Doom dabbled with it, but did not commit). However, if you went back to 1947 you would find the great-grandfather of them all, Robert Montgomery's adaptation of the Raymond Chandler mystery The Lady in the Lake, which was all shot through the hero's eyes and ears.

Indeed, in Hardcore Henry you will notice a poster for that cult movie on an apartment wall, a nice callback to where this rarely used subgenre had hailed from. But in terms of tone, this was more akin to the Jason Statham Crank films, where his character had undergone all sorts of outlandish adventures that not so much pushed at the boundaries of good taste as stomped their way through them flipping them off with a manic glee. There was a science fiction twist here that in other action flicks would simply be an excuse to bend the laws of physics to suit the cinematic violence, but here was used with some degree of humour, as indeed much of this was - a comedy then? Not exactly, for it had great faith in its ability to put across the thrills of wild abandon.

Considering the lead character was someone we never heard speak, never saw aside from parts of their body hoving into view on occasion, and was basically a cypher around whom the setpieces were constructed, it was possible to find yourself invested in his plight, even if he did indulge in that genre tenet of killing as many bastards as possible. That cliché of the protagonist executing a massive number of people, and that this was fine because they were all bad guys, was not quite taken for granted by director Ilya Naishuller, who toyed with the audience's expectations as while Henry was undoubtedly invincible (as far as we could tell), he was also the sort of character who would very easily have been one of the body count cannon fodder if things had turned out differently.

With underdog credentials well-established, he set out on his mission with an antagonist hounding his every turn, not just Akan but Akan's minions as well, who popped up with great regularity and generally ruined Henry's day. One person who might have his best interests at heart was Jimmy, played by the top-billed Sharlto Copley, who keeps leaving him nuggets of information and has a messy habit of getting killed in spectacular fashion, only to reappear in a different guise apparently none the worse for wear. He was a lot of fun and well-cast for "getting" the mood Naishuller was aiming for that was not exactly serious about anything apart from its dedication to delivering on its promise for being as crazy as possible. Everyone else aside from Kozlowski and Bennett was pretty much a bit part player, including the director's wife Darya Charusha who also composed the score (when it wasn't littered with cheesetastic oldies), and if its surprises were rather lost in its over the top methods then its irreverence and oddly noble purity of motivation, where innovation was everything, provided plenty of entertainment. It was, it had to be said, a real love it or hate it movie, not as good or as bad as many would say, but its imagination was arresting.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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