“Hardcore Henry” Is a Bloody Mess

Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller, 2015)

I saw Hardcore Henry at the recent 2016 SXSW Festival, and my initial reaction to the film has not mellowed in the weeks since. If you like first-person point-of-view video games, then it may be just your ticket. On the other hand, if you do enjoy such experiences, then you may perhaps feel frustrated that the film – though mimicking their perspective – offers you no choice but to sit and accept the director’s idea of what you should see. That idea – such as it is – is carnage layered upon carnage, with a body count so high that the guts and gore all blend together in a blurry miasma of bloody viscera. While I, myself, have no experience with these games – Call of Duty is but one example – I imagine that their appeal lies very much in the adrenaline rush that comes from placing oneself at the center of the story. With the arrival of virtual-reality rigs like the Oculus Rift, such experiences will only become more intense for the user. Whatever one thinks of immersive games or the future of entertainment, however, in the present here and now, Hardcore Henry is the opposite of immersive. It’s one-trick-pony of a gimmick – that we never see the protagonist because we are, in effect, the protagonist – backfires after the first 15 minutes, for want of a compelling narrative, and then is but a repellent device that merely serves to remind us of the absence of screenplay. A must miss, for sure.

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