Hardcore Henry is two very different films. The first is you sitting there, watching what's happening, wondering why? Why is this happening, why has this been allowed to happen, who has allowed this? You're sitting there, and you're watching a piece of trash. Pure, unadulterated trash. Then it becomes the second film. The second film is when you realise it's supposed to be trash. It's supposed to be this bad. And that's when you realise, as far as a film goes that's supposed to be bad – it's actually pretty good.
If you've not heard of this film, basically the reason it's allowed to exist is that it's in first person. That is, you are the main character. We see everything through the protagonist's eyes. It's a unique concept in film, and for one main reason – it's crap. Speaking as someone who plays a lot of games, I don't have a problem with the first person perspective – at the right time, for the right reasons, it can be completely necessary. Often, it's the only option. This is not one of those occasions.
The opening of the film is... I'm not sure. You spend so long getting used to the first person, you don't really take in the opening of the film. We see a very weird Bond-esque set of opening credits, albeit much more violent. But they just kind of happen. If there's a message in them, if there's a reason to the style, it went straight over my head. Then we have a couple of short scenes introducing, well, us, to the film, before we meet our antagonist. And what a sight he is. We go Bond-esque again; he's a super camp villain – a vague European accent, though from where in Europe it's impossible to say. Shoulder length wavy blonde hair, like something from a bad 90s pop group. And a way of talking, a way of acting, that's like watching Bond before it got serious. And that's not a compliment. It's all very surreal, but not in a good way. You feel like you're watching a film made by someone who loves James Bond, and who loves Call of Duty, and has no imagination.
After finding out our antagonist has superpowers, and finding out our protagonist is a wanted man, we go on a kind of whistlestop tour through Russia. We go through streets, in and out of buildings, while various sketchy looking people in varying shades of black try and kill us. For reasons as yet unknown to us. It's all very crap – we don't know who we are, where we're going, why we're going there, what the end goal is. This was when I got really frustrated with the film. It's a whole lot of nonsense. This went on for a time, until we entered an abandoned building. Then everything changed.
Upon entering this building, and killing a few cops, because, you know, why not? I had an epiphany. I stopped searching for meaning in this film, and just began to enjoy the blood. And it become a wholly different spectacle. It actually became kind of brilliant. The amount of blood, guts, gore, violence, nudity, swearing, it all suddenly made sense. And the sense was, there is no sense. Try and find meaning in this film, and you'll be sorely lacking. Watch it with a blank mind, and you'll love it.
As far as the cast goes, it's very strange. We're advertised Tim Roth – we get Tim Roth, but only for 10 seconds at the beginning, and 20 at the end. We're advertised Sharlito Copley – we get Sharlito Copley. We get a lot of Sharlito Copley. He of District 9 fame plays Jimmy, who's the main support to our unknown main character. And Jimmy is everywhere. He first appears as some sort of cockney lad, then he's a scientist, then he's an old timey soldier, then he's...who knows what. He must play 20 different personas in the film. It's all very confusing – but only while you're trying to keep up. Once you accept that each time you see Jimmy he'll be a different Jimmy, it's a lot of fun. It's like a who's who of serious mental problems.
Written and directed by Ilya Naishuller (me neither), Hardcore Henry is definitely a film. Whether it's a particularly good or bad one, I couldn't possibly say. I could give you 10 reasons to watch it, but equally 10 reasons not to. So I gave this a five, purely because I have no idea what happened in the 90-odd minutes I spent looking at the screen. My best guess would be this; if you're a hardcore film buff, if you like top quality meaningful films, then stay away. But if you're able to turn your brain off, and watch pure nonsense, then go for it. Either way, you've really nothing to lose.
EXTRAS: Just a feature-length audio commentary with writer/director/actor Ilya Naishuller and star Sharlto Copley.