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The Dose: ‘Hardcore Henry’ is a must-see for action fans

The Dose: ‘Hardcore Henry’ is a must-see for action fans

The Dose: ‘Hardcore Henry’ is a must-see for action fans
April 14
08:43 2016

Preston Mitchell | Staff Writer


Imagine, if you will, a hero with the same savage precision of John Wick. Imagine a world directed by Quentin Tarantino at his most crass and violent. Merge that with the breakneck pace and insanity of “Crank” but re-imagined as a first-person shooter.

“Hardcore Henry” is exactly that for 90 minutes straight and never lets up. Heavily influenced by classic shooters like “Doom” and “GoldenEye 007,” it’s everything great about gaming brought into the realm of action cinema.

In short, it’s pretty awesome.

This groundbreaking venture makes us the hero, Henry, and begins from his point-of-view of waking up to his beautiful wife (Haley Bennett) not remembering how he ended up in a lab. After replacing his missing limbs with cybernetic enhancements, Henry thirsts for vengeance after mercenaries kidnap his wife and leave him for dead.

With the help of Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), an ally who’s always at the right place at the right time, Henry and the audience slaughter bad guys in bloody, creative ways.

What works about “Hardcore Henry” is that director Ilya Naishuller boiled down everything we love about action movies to their bare essentials: blood, guns and fast cars. Here, he mashed those ideals with the first-person mystique of his music video work. Both videos touted unprecedented hyper-violence and were shot entirely on GoPro cameras.

Made for only $10 million, “Hardcore Henry” is the first time Naishuller uses his brilliance for feature-length purposes, making for a nonstop ride unlike any other. It also has much more impressive effects than “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” managed with $250 million.

While not as smart as “The Witch” or “Zootopia,” it never uses its lack of common sense to suck either. Rather, it’s a delightful romp that adapts several gaming scenarios (quests, sniper segments and escort missions) onto a grand cinematic canvas.

And the setting of “Hardcore Henry” exhilarates, since all American blockbusters seem to reside in New York or Los Angeles. Here, Naishuller took advantage of his Russian playground and crafted gunfights, car chases and fisticuffs out of refreshingly foreign locales.

While many people will complain about the thin story, “Hardcore Henry” has as much plot as a revenge movie needs. This is an intense, darkly comical film that knows what it is and its audience, delivering its promise with zero pretense. Rivaling Paul Greengrass’ works, like “The Bourne Supremacy,” this inventive indie runs a fast pace but keeps the action easy to follow.

Although you’re not watching this for the acting the standout on that front is Sharlto Copley of “District 9” fame. For the longest time, he’s participated in films far below his talent like “Elysium,” “The A-Team” and “Oldboy.” This time around, he wonderfully stretches his range and embodies a wealth of personas in one character. While hilarious as the comic relief, Copley nails his pathos and eventually becomes the heart of the film. It’s the final bit of panache that catapults “Hardcore Henry” into greatness.

My hope is that this film doesn’t start a wave of rip-offs similar to how “The Blair Witch Project” ignited found-footage movies. This is still a revolutionary effort meant to be seen with your best friends in all of its big, loud glory.

Despite the slim narrative, it’s an innovative actioner that will soon become a staple of drunken guys’ nights.

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