This revolution in action cinema works despite its utter silliness (or because of it). Directed by Russia-born filmmaker Ilya Naishuller, 'Hardcore Henry' is filmed entirely from the hero’s perspective, a coup that achieves a near-experimental bliss – you won’t know how it was executed, nor will you care.
The idea comes from video games and ‘Hardcore’ turns this gimmick into a feature-length concept, not without precedent. Yet because it’s a gory nonstop fight movie (unlike, say, 1947’s first-person detective noir ‘Lady in the Lake’), the cameraman has to be as agile and fearless as a stuntperson, flinging himself into hand-to-hand combat, out the doors of exploding vehicles, over fences and down stairwells.
The plot fits on a postage stamp: you are Henry, a mute cyborg suffering from a complete memory wipe. Nursing you back to health is the scientist wife you can’t remember (Haley Bennett). As you fight your brutal way through dozens –hundreds? – of unlucky henchmen toward an evil boss (Danila Kozlovsky), you encounter Jimmy (‘District 9’ actor Sharlto Copley, the movie’s default star), a chatty shape-shifter and helpful presence who sometimes appears as a British gangster, an exuberant brothel regular or a pot-smoking hippie.
‘Hardcore’ isn’t deep. It’s not about complex ideas and it’s not going to win any awards for female characters. Even the CGI effects are a little shoddy. But by stepping into the shoes of a wall-climbing Jackie Chan, a parkour-sprinting Daniel Craig or a bullet-spraying Arnie, it does something that live action has never attempted before. The carnage flies – it’s possible to miss a lot of it. But if action movies are meant to be delirious and stunning, ‘Hardcore’ can proudly take its place among the giants. Even better, it lets you stand with them.