Written and Directed by Ilya Naishuller (in his directorial debut)
September 12, 2015 (Toronto International Film Festival) / April 8, 2016
Henry wakes up in a mysterious lab on an airship and after escaping must save his wife and put together the pieces of his past.
This is a kinetic film that you experience entirely in first person. Henry (Sergey Valyaev, Andrei Dementiev, Ilya Naishuller and seven others) never speaks and you never get a good look at his face. We learn more about his immediate situation than we do about any of past. This film is filmed entirely in first person from the perspective Henry and so you are immersed in the experience. Calling Henry a character might be a bit much. He is more of an extension of the viewer. In this aspect the film is like a first-person shooter.
Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) is a psychokinetic villain who also happens to control a corporation and be into convoluted plots. He shows up, causes problems, and is chased away just as quickly. He just never feels like much of a threat. He is just a powerful nuisance.
Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) is an enemy of Akan having been severely injured by him after Jimmy’s experiment for soldiers proved ineffective. Jimmy has multiple copies of himself running around. What exactly is going on with Jimmy is a bit mysterious at first since he keeps getting killed but manages to return albeit different each time. Each copy you see is a different aspect of Jimmy’s personality. Each acts different from the previous one. Copley is quite possibly the most famous name in the movie which says something about the movie.
The budget here is quite small. I do not need big budgets in my movies I just need a good movie, and this is not bad but not as good as it could have been. They tried to do something different here and it sort of works. And by works I mean that you will stay invested until the end but may not watch this again. This film though should have changed the action film game, but it did not. The film was largely a gimmick with a weak story and weaker characters. Aside from Jimmy, the characters had a role in the film but were not actual characters. They are mostly as defined as Henry which is not very much at all.
The plot is just an excuse to see how crazy they can get with the action sequences in this gimmick. And if you are trying to do something different in any genre then you should be pushing the envelope and at times they do here. Unfortunately these scenes do little to create a story or expand upon the characters. Action films tend to not be heavy on characterization but this movie is lighter than most.
Given the production pedigree I figured it was a safe bet I would like this. Timur Bekmambetov has been connected to some stuff I have really loved but not so much here. As producer I assumed his guiding hand would lead to something that was not only cool in concept but also cool in execution. Sadly not.
Hardcore Henry had the potential to be a gamechanger. Unfortunately it is just a unique footnote. It is a good idea hampered by a weak script when it comes to the hero and a film that focuses on the gimmick over the story. Ultimately you can skip this.