Hardcore Henry delivers exactly what it teases in its trailer – a live adaptation of a first-person shooter with all the game design tropes. There’s a quest, a mysterious guide, a hot chick, and a powerful villain out for world domination with pawns in matching uniforms. You get the fade to black, side quests, and exposition breaks.
Combining Jackie Chan’s wall climbing, Daniel Craig’s sprinting parkour, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gun-blazing trail, Jason Statham’s Crank style power-ups, and heaps of splatter violence, you get what you came for.
The movie is shot using head-mounted Go Pros, which results in interesting spatial navigation. In one action sequence, Henry chases after a guy, climbing stairs, crossing beams, and running through the streets. Just like a real foot chase, there are moments when Henry gets close but the guy manages to sprint ahead just enough to be out of reach.
The technical wizardry here deserves praise but this trick losses its novelty very fast.
Hardcore Henry is already at a disadvantage right off the bat. Without the interactive component that comes with a game, the derivative writing becomes all the more obvious. The summary of this movie could be found in plenty of game descriptions.
Sharlto Copley is great as always and his dance number revealing his singing capabilities is a treat. But they’re too few bright spots on a bloody corpse strewn canvas.
With a mute avatar and nothing at stake, the action becomes a blur of sequences that teeters between a feature-length Go Pro ad and a dizzying live simulation of a simulation. There’s nothing to connect with or invest in as Henry is given no agency whatsoever, pushed around by plot developments solely revolving around increasing levels of mayhem. As expected, the boss battle is on the rooftop where Henry has to fight men in white jumpsuits before he can get near the Russian Darth Vader.
Hardcore Henry ends like typical shoot’em up games do. Depending on your tolerance level, it could be a mind trip or an endurance test. If you’re just looking for a distraction, then this movie is for you. But if that’s the case, then why don’t you just play a real videogame instead of watching a replica of it?
Hardcore Henry offers mindless violent fun, but without an engaging story and a discernible character, its innovative camerawork quickly becomes a repetitive live simulation of a derivative first-person shooter.