Hardcore Henry: A visually disorienting style

Directed by Ilya Naishuller

Ilya Naishuller's Hardcore Henry knows exactly what it wants to be from the start of the opening credits: a no-holds-barred violent romp à la Tarantino with the aesthetics of a first-person shooter video game. If you are not a fan of this cinematic style, Hardcore Henry will be the most disorienting experience at the movie theatre since the last Paul Greengrass film. As a video gamer, I'm used to this style, but the disorienting action sequences in this film drew me out of it. I'm a big fan of the first-person narrative in Grand Theft Auto V for instance, and whether I'm on a mission or a heist, the first-person mode in a vehicle with a windshield adds a unsettling layer to the gaming experience.

In the film, Henry is the superhuman that has been created in a science lab as a archetypal Jason Bourne. The quiet tranquillity of Henry getting used to his new self is short lived when Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) raids the lab and goes after Henry and his girlfriend Estelle (Haley Bennett), using his band of mercenary soldiers and his telekinesis powers.

Just like in a video game, there are set designs that involve Henry going after Estelle, defeating Akan and trying to stay alive by any means necessary. There are three times that Akan shows up in the plot narrative, and this is the same motif used in video games to emphasize the overall objective. Also there to help out Henry is Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), a colourful character with a wide array of idiosyncrasies that capture the witty disposition of Mike Myers and the obscene nature of Sacha Baron Cohen. The character is sure to get under your skin.

I did not have a bad experience with both viewings, and I commend Hardcore Henry for its style and also for being a fresh experience for audience members who are not jarred by the film's aesthetic nature, or the action sequences that mimic a Paul Greengrass or Quentin Tarantino film. The action sequences are lavish and grandiose, but the experience was jarring when the sequences start to blur.

A friend of mine, a video gamer, began to feel nauseous about 20 minutes into the film and left to smoke a cigarette. Upon exiting, I noticed one audience member grinning from the excitement of the film, and another had to take off their glasses and rub their eyes from sure dizziness.

Rating: 2.5/5


Remi Caron-Liss hosts At The Movies (with Iconic Sounds), every Tuesday at 8AM, only on CJLO.