Review: Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry
6 10
This review originally appeared in our coverage of TIFF 2015

PLOT: A cyborg tries to rescue his kidnapped wife with the help of a scientist (Sharlto Copley) and his army of clones.

REVIEW:  HARDCORE is the true definition of a mixed bag as far as movies go. On the one hand, it's a silly, misogynist, incredibly stupid action outing with some dicey acting and a thoroughly familiar plot. But, at the same time it's executed in such a brilliant way that it's impossible to dismiss Illya Niashuller's work here, with him having put together a pretty respectable action flick with some incredibly dynamic, stylish moments.

The world's first feature-length first-person action flick, after a dicey start Naishuller, who raised much of the budget on Kickstarter, launches an all-out assault on the audience that makes HARDCORE a must-see on the big-screen even if some of the dialogue and situations are so stupid that you'll wish the same amount of attention and care had been put into writing a screenplay as has been put in the insane production design and action.

Clearly a passion project for Naishuller, who made a little test-run for HARDCORE with his music videos for his band Biting Elbows, there's something punk-rock about the Russian setting and hard-core violence. While the dodgy CGI of the opening scenes might worry more skeptical audience members, once the carnage starts it's pretty hard not to be impressed by some of the set-pieces, with crazy, far-out sequences involving tanks, massive shootouts with AK-47's, flame-throwers and more, as well as a few really well-designed first-person punch ups.

Unless you're prone to motion-sickness (in which case you should stay away) this is a pretty wild theatrical experience. With the hero being mute, the focus here is just action, action, action but given how clunky the dialogue is you'll be happy our cyborg hero is sent on his way before his voice chip can be activated.

With our hero essentially an automaton, all the personality comes from Sharlto Copley, with his clones being constantly killed in gruesome ways only to pop-up more chipper than ever. Each clone has his own personality, with his mustachioed SAS military man, mo-hawked punk rocker, coke-addled strip club owner and ganja loving hippie giving Copley many chances to chew the scenery. He even gets his own musical number where he jumps from body-to-body singing 'I've Got You Under My Skin'. Copley seems to be having the time of his life and without him HARDCORE's novelty would have worn off quickly.

With Timur Bekmambetov producing, Naishuller seemed to get his run of Russia, with great location-work and lots of firepower. However, Bekmambetov's sensibilities also mean that there's an extended sequence set in a strip club where strippers are literally thrown at our hero like props, and a plot-twist that's screamingly obvious right from the start. The big white-haired baddie also tends to grate on the nerves but, again, it's the style that counts. The grand guignol final twenty minutes or so are downright amazing so as much as HARDCORE occasionally bugged me, it's often inspired. Naishuller's technique and occasional blasts of humor (his music selection in excellent, with choices ranging from Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' to Leo Sayer's 'You Make Me Feel Like Dancing') suggest he's going to much in demand once HARDCORE starts making the rounds. It's absolutely stupid, but it's also a heck of a lot of fun.

Source: JoBlo.com



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