Hardcore Henry


“Hardcore Henry” is a “first-person movie,” as in, “Let me be the first person to tell you how bad this movie is.” Written and directed by Ilya Naishuller (a protege of Russian genre-man Timur Bekmambetov), this barely coherent fantasy shoot-em-up is seen entirely through the eyes of its title character, a voiceless, bionic amnesiac who has no idea what he has woken up in the middle of. You’ll know how he feels.

Revived after dying (?) and fitted with parts that make him more machine than man, Henry (whose face we never see and for whom no actor is credited) is told by his scientist-wife Estelle (Haley Bennett) that he must stop a blond, hysterical villain named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) from using this technology to create an army of super-soldiers just like him. To that end, Henry runs and jumps all over the city (Moscow?), shooting, fighting, and killing like a character in a video game — a video game that never lays out its rules or even its premise. (Akan is telekinetic, by the way, and he’s the only person in the movie who is, but no one ever mentions it.)

Assisting Henry is a friend named Jimmy, played by the ever-hammy Sharlto Copley, from “District 9” and several unfortunate subsequent pictures. Perhaps to make up for Henry being silent and unseen (by us), the film has Jimmy pop up repeatedly, in different guises, to guide Henry on his way. But neither he nor the movie ever really explains what, exactly, the hell is going on, and it soon becomes nothing more than undifferentiated mayhem.

As a gimmick, the first-person point-of-view doesn’t get in the way (much), but it doesn’t succeed at making us feel like we’re part of the action, either. For one thing, Naishuller cheats a lot, using jump cuts (which I guess we’re supposed to pretend not to notice) to cover the gaps in what should have been unbroken takes. More crucially, though, the POV fails because there are no characters or emotions for us to latch onto. What little humor is present is sophomoric; the violence, predictably, is graphic and plentiful. It’s not even like watching someone play a video game. It’s like watching a video of someone watching someone play a video game.

D (1 hr., 36 min.; R, pervasive harsh profanity, abundant graphic violence, some strip-club nudity.)