Filmed entirely from a first-person perspective, “Hardcore Henry” is a bizarre, bloodthirsty mess of an action-adventure movie, handicapped by uneven writing and a propensity to place style over substance of any kind.
The Russian-American production follows the exploits of the eponymous Henry, an amnesiac cyborg attempting to kill Akan, an industrialist warlord who has kidnapped Henry’s wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett) – a beautiful scientist whose ultra-short lab coat appears to have been lifted from a porn set. Intent on rescuing her, Henry sets out on a rampage, aided by a battalion of mysterious clones named Jimmy, all of whom are played by South African actor Sharlto Copley.
Despite its reliance upon visual spectacle, “Henry” is only slightly prettier to look at than an old stain on the carpet: the camerawork – simulating the perspective of Henry himself – is often blurry and shaky, as the protagonist runs from rooftop to rooftop, brutally slaughtering countless enemy soldiers with mechanical efficiency. When Henry does slow down, his grimy surroundings come into focus: the film takes place almost entirely in the rotten, concrete labyrinth of Moscow and its environs.
However, the movie is not without its redeeming qualities. Relatively strong performances from Copley and fellow actor Danila Kozlovsky keep “Henry” afloat, and the film’s novel cinematography allows for several uniquely intense action sequences.
The scenes featuring Copley – an actor who has built a career based almost exclusively in science fiction and fantasy films – represent some of the best parts of “Henry.” As various iterations of the mad scientist Jimmy, Copley delivers a series of whacky performances, which are as broad and lacking in nuance as the movie itself. Despite their unsubtle nature, Copley’s caricaturized characters are undoubtedly entertaining.
Kozlovsky, a Russian actor who is all but unknown in America, shines as Akan. A standard villain with dreams of world domination, Akan is seemingly ripped straight from the pages of a comic book, and offers no surprises as a character – but Kozlovsky brings so much energy to the role, one can’t help but be scared of him.
Even with these performances buoying it, “Henry” is still a raging garbage-fire of a movie. It’s like a 90-minute video game cut scene: a seemingly ceaseless barrage of cringingly graphic violence, topless women and parkour stunts. It’s a 12-year-old “Call of Duty” enthusiast’s wet dream captured on film.
Despite the high levels of insanity present throughout the entire movie, “Henry” fails to even qualify as a so-bad-it’s-good film; its eccentricities are banalities, not imaginative oddities.