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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

So Wrong, So Fun

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday April 14, 07:06 pm
But stuntman-mounted Go-Pros do not a plot make

Hardcore Henry
Now playing, wide
3 out of 5

It was a matter of time before prosumer equipment would make it all the way to the multiplex. Last February, the iPhone-shot Tangerine scored four nominations and a win at the Independent Spirit Awards. Now Go-Pro extravaganza Hardcore Henry has opened in over 3,000 screens. It didn’t set the box office on fire, but pioneers seldom do.

Hardcore Henryis a movie filled with remarkable achievements and maddening shortcomings. The 96-minute extravaganza (shot in first person point of view from beginnning to end) is quite watchable, and solves the standard videogame-inspired films’ main problem — relatability — using immediacy. You aren’t watching somebody else play Super Mario, you ARE Super Mario.

Too bad the plot is too flimsy to sustain the gimmick.

Not surprisingly, Hardcore Henry is produced by Timor Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch), an auteur who seems to believe scripts are for wimps. The title character is a Robocop of sorts who awakens with no sense of self or voice, for that matter. The only piece of information he has is that he’s married and his wife (Haley Bennett) supervises the program that has provided him with, um, mechanical parts.

Just to move the plot forward, said wife gets kidnapped by a gangster with telepathic powers (don’t ask). Henry must search for her around a no-name city while avoiding being captured himself. The only person in his corner is Jimmy (Sharlto Copley, District 9), who plays the equivalent of a MS Office paperclip.

Hardcore Henryis best whenever it’s immersing the audience in an action scene. There are plenty of those. Whether completing impossible parkour feats or taking on a gang of super soldiers, the visual feats the movie accomplishes are unparalleled. It doesn’t hurt that the filmmakers seem to have a total disregard for their stunt team’s well-being (the stunt team, which includes director Ilya Naishuller, are the ones wearing the Go-Pros). The film is so successful in this regard, midway through it numbs you and the insanity on screen becomes the new normal.

An element of Hardcore Henry that may not be all that palatable for general audiences is the misogyny and gratuitous violence on display. Take it with a grain of salt. Henry may be inspired by first-person shooter videogames, but it also mocks them mercilessly. Just go with it.

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