Certificate 18, 96 minutes
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett
Hardcore Henry opens with a view of three children, one of which throws a toy against a wall, breaking it. Then an adult (Tim Roth) appears, and crouches down, speaking to what is presumably another child, the one whose toy has just been broken, and saying "You little pussy." Then, there are the opening credits, which see lots of violence perpetrated in slow motion in red and black.
Then the viewer comes to in a tank of clear liquid, whilst a woman walks around it. The initial colours are wrong, and the scene has two different views, until the woman adjusts an eye and the vision is natural, as are the colours. The person in the tank is rather badly damaged, and presumably was dead. They are missing half of their right arm, and half of their right leg. The arms that are left have tattoos on them. The woman, Estelle (Haley Bennett), attaches some highly advanced prosthetics to the missing limbs, welding them on, as well as disguising them, mostly, with skin. Estelle says that she's the wife of the man, who is called Henry, and she's used her work to rebuild him, $6 million man style. Henry was apparently in a bad way; his eyes are also apparently artificial, as is a chunk of his face and a lot of his insides. He has also lost his memory, but Estelle says that's normal, and hasn't got his voice yet.
Henry's second attempt at violence goes better than the first, but he is only rescued from death at the hands of the mercenaries by Jimmy (Sharlto Copley, Chappie, Elysium, Maleficent), who says he has been waiting for years to meet Henry - although he doesn't actually know who he is - and that Henry has got a problem in that he is going to quickly run out of power. Jimmy can fix this, and then plans to take Henry to his lab, but Jimmy is then killed. After fleeing more of Akan's forces, Henry is contacted by Jimmy again. Jimmy, who is dressed more than a little differently this time, and in fact acts differently, seems rather less than dead. Indeed, Jimmy, in various different personalities, is killed multiple times throughout the film, but always comes back as a new version. Unlike Akan's telekinetics, this is explained. Throughout the rest of the film, Henry goes looking for Estelle, aided on occasion by Henry, and proves proficient at all forms of violence and with all guns - and there is a very, very wide range of the latter, some of which look like they date back to World War II.
The entire film is shot from Henry's perspective, apparently using the GoPro Hero 3 camera, which was head mounted in a specially modified rig that fitted like a mask and gives a first person perspective of the action. As a result of this, the titular Henry is not actually the star of the film and was, in fact, played by various different people. The only parts of Henry that are usually seen are his arms and legs, and occasionally parts of the rest of his body, depending on where he is looking. Instead, Jimmy is the star, as he has more screen time than anyone else.
Shooting things from a first person perspective isn't that new. Cloverfield was shot mostly from the point of view of the cameraman; Doom, in a homage to its first person shooter origins, had an extended scene shot like an FPS and other films, such as Kick-Ass and Grimsby, have had FPS-style scenes. Hardcore Henry is probably the first film that is shot entirely as a first person shooter, which is a bit different. It does seem like the sort of film that could have been shot in 3D, given its first person perspective. However, given that same perspective, if the 3D had worked, it would probably have worked far too well; some scenes are disconcerting enough as Henry jumps, rolls and runs around, and if they had worked in 3D, the audience might well have been adversely affected. Of course, skipping 3D also makes a film much cheaper to make.
The certification is, at 18, very high. It's actually quite difficult to get an 18 certificate these days, unless you go for Evil Dead levels of supernatural horror gore, nor is such a high certification generally that desired, as it limits the audience substantially. Hardcore Henry lacks much in the way of foul language - Henry, after all, cannot talk - and the only adult references are various occasions of partial nudity and sexual references in one long scene - so, why is this film rated so high? Well, quite simply, it's very, very, very messily violent. Henry kills, with a whole host of weapons, literally hundreds of Akan's minions. These killing are usually extremely bloody - no pretence of bloodless violence in this film; you get to see the true outcome of violence and, thanks to the viewpoint, this is often up close and personal, with blood splashing across Henry's "eyes." The violence is both gruesome and graphic, which isn't that uncommon, but it is also almost non-stop, as violence fills almost the entirety of the film.
As well as the first person perspective, the film has more elements of the FPS. There are a huge variety of guns, just like in an FPS, from semi-automatics to machine pistols to assault rifles to full-on machine guns, as well as grenades, explosives and rocket launchers, as well as the occasional blade and improvised weapon and what could only be considered to be a power up. Just like in an FPS, the hero - Henry - is far more proficient than anyone he goes up against, able to mow down hordes of foes. With the living ones, being cybernetically augmented and kind of dead helps, but Henry is also able to defeat equally large hordes of similarly augmented troops.
So, with all this, and what is quite a new viewpoint, as it were, on the action genre, how well does it work? Truthfully, it's not very good. This is down to another element common to first person shooters - not much in the way of a genuine plot apart from some means of stringing together a whole bunch of violent action scenes, although there is a twist to it as well. It isn't entirely without its merits and can be enjoyable, and will have a, probably rather niche, audience. Namely, the person who enjoys first person shooters and wants to see one on the big screen, only with vastly more realistic levels of violence than even today's video games manage. Although its certification is another way in which it matches them. Hardcore Henry is an incredibly gorily violent action film, but one with a new perspective; however, it's not a film to watch if you don't like truly violent action.