Hardcore Henry: They Keep Killing Jimmy!

An image from HARDCORE HENRY Courtesy of STX Entertainment

HARDCORE HENRY Courtesy of STX Entertainment

Hardcore Henry is a shot of pure adrenalin on top of an urn of coffee, a six-pack of Coke and about a pound of rice krispie treats. It replicates the experience of watching an expert play a first person shooter video game while layering in a love story and several unexpected dollops of wit.

The film opens with young Henry being bullied by three bigger kids who destroy a spiffy toy and then being called ‘You Little p***y’ by his father (Tim Roth). Then he wakes up on an operating table in a lab – minus his left leg below the knee and his left arm below the elbow.

Then, following an opening credits sequence that looks like a Bond intro by Sam Peckinpah, a pretty blonde woman – who says she is his wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett) – in a lab coat asks if he remembers what happened and, after he shakes his head no, attaches artificial replacement parts. Before her team can upload his voice, the lab is assaulted and her team killed. The leader, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) takes her with him after deciding that Henry is a failed experiment and orders his men to kill him.

Henry escapes and encounters Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) who attempts to help him before getting killed himself and the race is on.


HALEY BENNETT stars in HARDCORE HENRY. Courtesy of STX Entertainment

The rest of the film is Henry attempting to find the equipment to recharge himself so he can rescue his wife.

Henry is obviously played by one or more extremely capable stuntmen wearing a GoPro camera. We never actually see any more of him than he can see (and he never seems to catch a glimpse of himself in a mirror).

There are a few very brief breaks from the ensuing mayhem, mostly involving Henry and Jimmy and occurring in odd places (on a bus, in a bordello, etc.). These moments of relative quiet allow some brief exposition and give Henry a chance to power up before continuing on.

Copley dazzles as Jimmy (in all his incarnations) – a role that seems to be a nod to Peter Sellers in Doctor Strangelove – and his story turns out to be quite a bit of fun.

The action is more varied – and grislier – than anything since (and including) the days of Peckinpah, but between the electronic score and some understatedly ironic song choices, there are some great laughs to counter the thud and blunder.

An image from HARDCORE HENRY Courtesy of STX Entertainment

HARDCORE HENRY Courtesy of STX Entertainment

Hardcore Henry is an expansion of a short that was seen by Russian director/producer Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Wanted) and given a chance to be developed as a feature. Written and directed by Illya Naishuller, it’s a gonzo action flick that makes frenetic look like molasses.

If you suffer from queasiness when you watch a found footage film, Hardcore Henry will knock you off your feet and leave you with a cinematic hangover. If not, then it’s a bizarre and truly demented ride that will leave you sweaty and exhausted but thoroughly dazzled.

At ninety minutes, it could actually be a bit shorter (I finished my big drink about ten minutes before the closing credits rolled), but it’s audacious and remarkably inventive – both in terms of the sheer number of ways to commit mayhem, and in the delicious use of songs like the Cole Porter standard I’ve Got You Under My Skin. There is a spiffy twist near the end that I certainly didn’t see coming and that last surprise (which, oddly, didn’t require violence for its impact) kept Hardcore Henry from completely losing me in the last ten minutes.

The audience at the screening I attended applauded, but I’m not sure it was entirely earned. Still, I’m glad I saw it and would be very interested in listening to a commentary track should one pop up on the home video release.

Final Grade: B