Hardcore Henry

Apr 19, 2016

It's a wild ride through the eyes of a frenetic cyborg-like hero, and it's as fun as a video game.

Hardcore Henry

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Grade: B+

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Screenplay: Naishuller

Cast: Sharlto Copley (District 9), Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction)

Rating: R

Runtime: 96 min.

by John DeSando

First person POV in an energetic, kinetic thriller like Hardcore Henry is difficult enough to think about, much less sit through 96 minutes. Yet, this violent video-game-like journey, with a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek, where we virtually live through titular Henry’s frenetic attempt to extend his life and find his wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), is not disorienting as the usual hand-held camera film is, but an absorbing vicarious race against time and very bad Russians.

Henry is almost fully cyborg, having been resurrected with no memory and pieced together by his wife. You might even question whether Estelle is really his wife but rather a device of megalomaniac, telekinetic warlord Anka (Danila Kozlovsky) to capture valuable machine-man Henry.

We witness first-hand the terror of being pursued by various assassins, including a steel-covered man with a flamethrower and scores of disinterested, by-standing Muscovites.   In some ways, the sense of being propelled almost out of control by outside forces was captured similarly in Run Lola Run, but not as violently and helplessly as here.

It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to assume that allegorically the tough guys, even Henry, are stand-ins for Moscow hoods emanating from the ultimate tough guy, V. Putin. At any rate, a recurring stranger is Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who says Mother Russia is “too goddamned hot.”

It is that in a tightly-directed (musician turned writer-director Ilya Naishuller) thriller using GoPro mobile cameras that will totally immerse  you, all the while satisfying your inner need to control the world as if you were playing a video game.  No control here except for the director.

When the campy sequence with a group of Jimmy's clones sings Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin, the crazy-quilt satire is in full swing, and you don’t call for control any more.

“There are 52 baseball bats sold annually in Russia, and only 25 of them are used for sport. I think you can guess what the others are used for.” (Akan) Yes, it’s violent but highly amusing stuff for which you will not need Dramamine.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at