Hardcore Henry: Sharlto Copley is Our Tour-guide Through Pandemonium [Review]

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From STX Entertainment, director Ilya Naishuller and produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) comes the first person shooter film Hardcore Henry. Starring Sharlto Copley (District 9), Danila Kozlovsky (Vampire Academy), and Haley Bennett (The Equalizer), the film made it’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness and was released nationwide April 8th.

Henry, a newly resurrected cyborg who must save his wife/creator from the clutches of a psychotic tyrant with telekinetic powers, AKAN, and his army of mercenaries. Fighting alongside Henry is Jimmy, who is Henry’s only hope to make it through the day. Hardcore takes place over the course of one day, in Moscow, Russia.

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The first true 100% filmed first person action film is finally here in Hardcore Henry – a nonstop hour and a half action frenzy of violence and madness. The frenetic savagery that fuels this film is so insane that after a while when the brutality starts to dull your mind due to the overload on your senses, that Hardcore Henry descends into a chaotic ballet, transforming the action genre into something it’s never been before.

Sharlto Copley is our tour-guide through pandemonium as the audience is a cybernetic enhanced human with amnesia and no voice (they explain why of course) with but one goal – to survive and to save your wife who has been kidnapped by a superhuman psychopath who has the power to move objects with his mind. If that sounds like the synopsis to a videogame, you aren’t wrong. First person shooter action games are built and thrive on simple but emotionally charged premises like this. Turns out – it works in movie format too. Hell – remember Shoot Em Up’ with Clive Owen? Simple as it gets – but beautifully shot, directed and edited with tremendous attention paid to the music and action sequences so that the pacing becomes flawless. Same deal here people.

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I loved that this world seems to be a futuristic one as well – the tech is just a little bit ahead of what we have now. Escape pods, cars are fuelled a bit differently, and yeah – cybernetic enhanced super soldiers. That kind of stuff. Sharlto Copley continuously pops up to try and help you – YES YOU – (the audience is the hero in Hardcore Henry) by guiding you along the anarchy. If you’re wondering how Sharlto’s Jimmy keeps popping up even after he’s killed – repeatedly – it all comes together in the end. So sit back, relax and try not to get too dizzy.

If I had one complaint, it would be that I felt a little nauseated after the film. Because it’s 100% first person perspective for the entire run-time and because it’s so fucking insane – it takes a toll on your eyeballs. I haven’t had this issue in ages and I’ve seen plenty of found footage shaky camera flicks. However – even with that minor gripe – Hardcore Henry is fucking brilliant. I’ve never seen that much death, that much savagery unfold at that quick and relentless of a pace and still keep me entertained from beginning to end. A lot of the film’s success is due to Sharlto Copley and his constant ability to either make you laugh or keep you focused on the mission at hand. This is Copley’s best performance since his debut in District 9 and I would love to watch the film again after now knowing the twist on why he keeps popping up time and time again. That musical number near the end? Marvellous.

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Ilya Naishuller has directed a one-of-a-kind action spectacle in Hardcore Henry. It won’t be for everyone – it won’t even be for every gamer – hell I barely play videogames anymore. But for those of us genre nuts who are craving something different, something unique and special… Hardcore Henry is that new action movie that can help to change the way we look at movie-going experiences. You are the star of Hardcore Henry – good job world – you’re one ass-kicking guns-a-blazing sonofabitch.

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