‘Hardcore Henry’ is Like Watching 90 Minutes of Someone Else Playing Video Games

GameStop, Inc.


Ever since Wolfenstein 3D, the first person shooter has been a cornerstone of the video game world. As a player, you step into the shoes of another character, one likely to take more damage than the hordes of anonymous baddies. Of course, the real pleasure of the first person shooters comes from its interactivity. Unlike some other forms of video games, it’s not exactly cinematic. That didn’t stop writer-director Ilya Naishuller from making his first person action epic, Hardcore Henry. After all these years, we finally have a movie that captures all the feeling of watching someone else play video games for 90 minutes. Hardcore Henry is at moments an interesting exercise in style, but its commitment to its video game roots undermines its threadbare story.

The film opens with what we’re later told is a flashback as a trio of young boys throw a toy against a wall in super slow motion. Unexpectedly, Tim Roth stares directly into the camera, speaking to every person in the theater, and says, “You little pussy.” This moments is followed by opening credits featuring close ups of ultraviolence in super slow motion. We haven’t even reached the film’s video game aesthetic, nor have we been given any sense of the film’s story, but the juvenile sensibilities of Hardcore Henry are abundantly clear from the get-go.

From there, we see Henry (played by the newcomer Player 1) as he wakes from some sort of medical procedure. Missing limbs and incapable of speaking, the disoriented Henry has robotic parts applied to his body, which are overseen by the young and sexy scientist Estelle (Haley Bennett). Before Henry can have his speech modular installed, Estelle tells him that she is his wife. Before Henry can get his voice implanted, the mysterious villain Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), an albino with telekinetic powers, breaks into the laboratory, forcing Henry and Estelle to escape. With the help of the mysterious stranger Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), Henry must pass through a number of levels with varying degrees of difficulty to defeat Akan and save the woman he is told he loves.

As a character, Henry is as fleshed out as any character in a first person shooter. That is to say not at all. But a video game can easily get around that issue because it allows the player to step into the shoes of the character. Without the interactivity, a movie needs to give the audience a reason to care about the character, and Hardcore Henry never give the audience a reason to care about anything. It certainly doesn’t help that the character is mute, simply not allowing any perspective to our point of view. Worst of all, it can’t skirt the fact that Henry is not going to die – if he does, there’s no movie. So all of this adds up to a stylistic choice that stymies the storytelling, not that I was expecting much in the way of story to begin with.

It’s even harder to get wrapped up in the first person violence with a story as needlessly convoluted as the one that Ilya Naishuller is telling. This is very much a style of filmmaking that could’ve benefited from a very simple, streamlined story: Here’s the good guy, here’s the bad guys, this is the MacGuffin – Go! Yet Hardcore Henry doesn’t do that. One question that the film takes its sweet time answering is why Sharlto Copley’s Jimmy can be repeatedly killed and return minutes later. I understand the video game element, but the film just waits and waits to give the audience any answers for far too long. It’s not until more than halfway through the movie that we’re given answers to a number of the film’s numerous plot questions, and even then nothing is imaginative or remotely satisfying.

There are a few moments of wit within Hardcore Henry. Copley’s Jimmy takes on a number of different personas, ranging from an English solider and a pothead biker. One of the more entertaining personas is the cokehead in a brothel. It’s a lively, manic, and funny performance, but it only makes up a small portion of his screen time. But it does lead to a rather entertaining action scene in a brothel set to music of the proto-punk garage band The Sonics and their classic rocker “Strychnine.” However, some of the other song choices aren’t as inspired, particularly using Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” during the climactic battle. I’m sorry, Mr. Naishuller, but that song is owned by Shaun of the Dead.

Hardcore Henry is a macho man’s movie in every regard. It’s pretty dumb, excessively violent, and only features a couple of women with names and/or lines to speak. Seriously, guys, don’t drag any dates to Hardcore Henry. This one is simply for the boys. Even then, those who get queasy on rollercoaster rides or virtual reality games might want to avoid the film for the dizzying effect of the first person action.

As a movie, Hardcore Henry is more an experiment than a coherent work of cinema. Despite its numerous flaws its stylistic approach will earn the film a cult following of video game aficionados. For those looking for a bit more from a movie, Ilya Naishuller’s film doesn’t offer anything besides its style. Hardcore Henry features multiple moments of point-of-view parkour along with headshots, punches, and stabbings. More than anything, Hardcore Henry confirms that the video game aesthetic isn’t able to be transposed to the cinema. It may be audacious and ambitious, but when the end credits finally began to roll, I wasn’t looking to hit continue.

Hardcore Henry
  • Overall Score

The Verdict

With its first person shooter aesthetic, Hardcore Henry captures the essence of its video game inspiration without telling a compelling story.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Annabeth Gish & C. Thomas Howell Talk About Their New Modern Western, ‘Ride’ – Interview

Annabeth Gish and C. Thomas Howell Discuss Their Roles in the...

Exclusive Clip from Roku’s ‘Fight Inc.: Inside the UFC’

Exclusive Clip from ‘Fight Inc.: Inside the UFC‘ now streaming exclusively...

‘D.I.Y. Duck’ Honors the Legacy of Donald Duck on His 90th Birthday – Review

Disney Legend Mark Henn and his team of artists honor Donald...

Event News Event Reviews
‘The Old Man and the Old Moon’ at Mission San Juan Capistrano – News

‘The Old Man and the Old Moon‘ at Mission San Juan...

‘Holmes & Watson’ Solve the Case at the Laguna Playhouse – Review

Jeffrey Hatcher’s ‘Holmes & Watson‘, Enthralls Audiences in a Magnificent twist...

‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid’ Enchants Audiences at La Mirada Theatre – Review

‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid‘ Enchants Audiences with a heartwarming performance now...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse! Blood on the cactus pt 1

It was really bloody, limbs hacked, heads torn off etc

Cultural Junk Drawer – The trial of Bluddgore the Obliterator

Wrech Cohvlid takes the stand providing testimony corroborating Cockmiester’s. He also...

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – We’re Demons pt2

You go on ahead, I'll be there in a jiffy!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...