Weekly Review: Hardcore Henry (2015)

A man wakes up in a Russian lab to find that he’s been brought back from the dead as a human robot hybrid. He has no memory of his past life, but a woman who claims to be his wife tells him his name is Henry. Before she can install his voice, the woman is kidnapped by a psychokinetic villain who plots to destroy the world, and Henry goes on a bloody rampage to save her.

You may have already heard of Hardcore Henry. If the plot doesn’t ring a bell, it may be better to describe it as the film shot entirely in first person. Based off of the previews, I knew it was going to be an experience. I just didn’t know how good of an experience it was going to be.

Most of the actors in Hardcore Henry are moderately unknown. The biggest names I knew were Sharlto Copley (District 9) and Haley Bennett (The Magnificent 7), although Tim Roth has a minor role as well. The villain is portrayed by Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky.

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Due to the fact that the film is shot in first person, there was no single actor who portrayed Henry. In fact, Henry was portrayed by about 10 people in total, mostly stuntmen with a GoPro camera rig attached to their person. At some points, the director Ilya Naishuller wore the camera rig himself.

Interestingly enough, the GoPro cameras were mounted to a rig known as the “adventure mask,” which was specially designed by stuntman and camera operator Sergey Valyaev. The rig was stabilized with magnets, put together by the film’s director of photography Vsevolod Kaptur. It’s a great team effort.

My biggest concern going into Hardcore Henry was that it was going to be too chaotic. I’ve seen my fair share of found footage films, and they can get pretty awful when it comes to camera work. I didn’t think this movie was going to be any different. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Despite the fact that the camera is always moving throughout Hardcore Henry, it feels incredibly stable the majority of the time. There is only one moment when the camera is supposed to be running that it feels chaotic. Even with explosions and blood gushing everywhere, the camera work just fits.

On that note, Hardcore Henry is not for those with weak stomachs. If you are prone to motion sickness, be cautious with it, but this point is more for the people who are squeamish with blood. This movie is brutal. I was watching it with a pair of people who were continuously shouting in a blend of shock and disgust. For the most part, it’s great. There are definitely some moments that made me have to turn away.

It really reaches that level of violence where all you can do is laugh in a horribly desensitized sort of way.

I knew going into Hardcore Henry that it was going to be an experience. I just didn’t know if it was going to be a good one or a bad one. I’d say that I was pleasantly surprised by this film, and I’d categorize it as an experience I’m glad I had. If you’re into the sort of all out carnage that this movie will provide, I’d absolutely recommend it. It’s brutally intense and weird, and I’m sure there’s an audience for it.

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