Hardcore Henry Blu-ray Review
Henry awakes in a tub of water. He looks around his surroundings, unsure where he is or who the woman speaking to him is. She, a nurse, asks if he knows how he got there, to which he shakes his head. “That’s normal,” she says.
After he is fitted with a prosthetic arm, the woman, Estelle (Haley Bennett, Antoine Fuqua’s THE EQUALIZER), reminds him that she is his wife. It’s while a group of scientists are preparing to give him a new voice that the building is attacked by a man named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky, 2014’s VAMPIRE ACADEMY), who has telekinetic powers and isn’t afraid to use them. Henry and Estelle escape from the facility, but their troubles are far from over.
Once Akan’s mercenaries capture Estelle, Henry is forced to fight for her freedom. This leads to all that one might expect in an actioner, including gunfights, explosions, foot chases, car crashes, etc. And for good measure, there are pliers to the nose and ripped out hearts.
HARDCORE HENRY is full of this sort of stuff, from its opening credits sequence (bathed in red, shot in slow-motion and set to The Stranglers’ “Let Me Down Easy”) to its finale, which comes complete with a decapitation. But that’s not the real attraction here. Rather, it’s the way the movie was shot that will pull in certain viewers.
The debut of director Ilya Naishuller, HARDCORE HENRY is shot from the first-person point of view (namely on GoPro cameras, which can be bought on Amazon for a few hundred bucks). And so for the entirety of the movie, we are seeing exactly what Henry does. This throws the viewer directly into the action, allowing them to play hero…or get nauseous.
Such a concept can work when done properly. This is part of the reason why first-person shooters remain so popular in the video game industry. Yet, there must be a reason why the technique is so seldom used in action movies. Even 2005’s DOOM—based on the classic first-person shooter—limited the perspective to just five minutes. It’s the best part of the movie partly because it’s a nod, but mostly because it stands out. HARDCORE HENRY uses it to excess and so is less impressive. With HARDCORE HENRY, it is mostly the style and not the content that has gotten attention. There is good reason for this: the movie has no substance and the style overwhelms. That there is no escaping the POV only serves to distract from the story, however thin it may be (something about super soldiers and cyber technology?).
As may have been expected from the promotional materials, the initial appeal of HARDCORE HENRY wears off pretty quickly. There are some exciting (and noisy) moments peppered throughout, but the gimmick can only go so far. What that length is is hard to determine, but it’s certainly not 96 minutes.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. As HARDCORE HENRY was shot on GoPros, it’s expected that the image would be far from pristine and the colors wouldn’t be crisp. Still, considering its technical limitations, this is an overall fine picture.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. Dialogue is clear but it’s the sound effects (gunfire, explosions, etc.) and soundtrack (Queen, The Stranglers, etc.) that show off the audio transfer.
Feature commentary with director/producer Ilya Naishuller: Naishuller offers a strong commentary that goes into the production, style, special effects and more.
Feature commentary with director/producer Ilya Naishuller and star/executive producer Sharlto Copley: There isn’t a whole lot of different content on this track than the previous one, but fans may want to skip around.
Fan Chat (12:25): Naishuller and Copley field fan-submitted questions.
Deleted Scenes (7:57): There are four here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Underground Parking Garage Fight,” “Sniper Jimmy’s Elevator Joke,” “Henry Shoots Mercenary” and “Akan’s First Death.”