Is Hardcore Henry One Of The Best Action Movies In Years Or An Experimental Disaster?

Hardcore Henry, a first-person action movie filmed entirely with a GoPro camera and heavily inspired by video games, comes out next week. Editors Javy Gwaltney and Daniel Tack got the chance to see the movie early and have had a chance to digest their thoughts so they can share them with you. Here. Right now!

Javy Gwaltney: So...Hardcore Henry. That is a motion picture, for sure.

Dan Tack: Indeed, I really liked the experiment anyway. The film, not so much. Listen, I’m all for nonstop action and gratuitous violence. I actually like those things (not for real) as a fan of schlocky action flicks, B-horror films, and worse, but the underpinnings of a 13-year old boy's masturbatory, testosterone-injected fantasy were just too much here at times. The dialogue was ridiculous, and not in a good way, since it took itself sort of seriously (while the movie didn’t take itself seriously most of the time) and the nonstop FPS (yeah, let’s just call it that because that’s what it is) action eventually got boring because there was just so much of it. That’s my hot take. But there were also plenty of things I did like about the film, too.

I realize these are sort of untested waters, and I always appreciate it when filmmakers try to do things in new ways. I absolutely enjoyed a few scenes (the movie essentially moves from set-piece to set-piece, fueled by slashing, shooting, and smashing) that I thought were GREAT, one involving an amazing Anarchy in the U.K. punk that you’ll know when you see it. The film’s nods to video games range from implicit to explicit; I’m pretty sure there was a subtle nod to BioShock Infinite and an explicit nod to Left 4 Dead in there, and that’s just scratching the surface. Hell, we even had our obligatory strip-club shootout. It’s got it all if you’re looking for non-stop action, and I think that it ends up having a chilling effect, because when the action goes on for that long you sort of develop an ennui for everything happening as your body becomes adjusted to it.

Javy: Yeah, the masturbatory stuff was definitely there and a bit too much, especially during the strip-club sequence and the last five minutes or so. On the whole though, I actually kind of dug Hardcore Henry. It is not a great movie in itself; it’s loud and dumb and often clumsy, not knowing what to do with its loud dumbness, but like you said, it’s experimental. And I think that experiment is super interesting in sections, mostly early on before you grown sort of numb to every action set-piece, and I do like that it’s continuing this trend of films using...what’s the right way to put this? I guess the language of video games in an interesting, unique way.

Like Dredd and The Edge of Tomorrow (or whatever garbage name they stuck it with after rebranding attempts) are both films that are clearly inspired by games and do interesting things with those inspirations. Dredd’s level-by-level structure and power-ups are simple but well done. Edge of Tomorrow’s theme of learning through repetition works exceedingly well in that movie, because it’s more than just a series of cutesy winks at games, but actually ties into Cruise’s character learning how to not be a terrible person through trial by fire.

Henry occasionally uses the first-person perspective really well. Like, early on (minor spoilers here), he gets in a fight with two bad dudes in front of an innocent bystander. He kills the first guy because he’s put in a situation where he’s forced to, unloading the pistol into the man’s face as he charges at him. Henry then looks at the other man who’s been knocked to the floor and is slowly coming around. He points the gun at the guy’s head, his hand shaking a bit as he tries to figure out if he’s going to pull the trigger. Henry looks back to the bystander and then to the dude, and then he drops the pistol and runs away. All of this is communicated without a single word from Henry himself, impressively creating a crude telegraph of sympathy and anxiety. I wish the movie had more of these moments where it fully took advantage of that perspective.

Dan: Maybe being jaded from so many hours of Call of Duty and other FPS took something away. I don’t know. There were enough interesting set-piece moments from keeping things from getting really bad, but some things just seemed like stock FPS fodder that didn't really add anything. Overall there are plenty of things to like in this film, especially if you know what you’re getting into – which is a psychotic adrenaline video-game-plot and action flick through and through that holds nothing back. I’m not even sure if they were going for shock value or what sometimes – It doesn’t really matter. Suffice to say, if you are NOT looking to see testicles popped, people impaled and decapitated, casual murder, attempted rape, women as objects, drug abuse, and everything exploding everywhere all the time, then this film probably isn’t for you or Grandma Cookiebaker. If you are however, interested in seeing a hyper-violent video-game-gone-movie, then this one is an interesting film experiment that has some genuinely cool scenes.

Javy: Yeah, no doubt. The violence and gore are off the charts, easily on level with the likes of Shoot ‘Em Up, so if that’s not your jam, you’d probably best keep away. Still, for gorehounds and those who adore impressive action showcases or flawed-but-compelling visual experiments, Hardcore Henry shouldn’t be missed.

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