Just who is this Hardcore Henry, the robo-dude who lends his name to this jumpy, jolting action thriller? Answer: Henry is you, he’s me, he’s us. All we see is what he sees. In this Moscow-based romper-stomper, the camera takes the first-person point of view of Henry who was once human, but has now been retro-fitted with droid parts to become a cyber-supersoldier.
Everyone seems to want Henry dead, except for his engineer wife Estelle (Haley Bennet). But Estelle’s been snatched by the villainous Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), an albino badass with telekinetic powers he uses for — what else? — global domination. Akan grabs Estelle before she can install hubby with a voice box. So don’t expect expository dialogue — there isn’t any. If action is character, Henry defines himself as a head-busting, bone-crushing mofo.
Blood is bound to splatter if you get in Henry’s way, on the streets or in a whorehouse where gratuitous nudity knows no bounds. The only help Henry gets against flamethrowers, tanks and armies of Russian mercenaries is from his buddy Jimmy (Sharlto Copley in overdrive), a shape-shifter whose cyber tricks include replication and the ability to belt out Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” like a Vegas lounge act. Still with me?
If you worry about such pettiness as logic and purpose then Hardcore Henry, a video gamer’s wet dream disguised as a movie, is not for you. There’s no denying the visual wizardry of first-time feature director Ilya Naishuller who expanded the film from one of the music videos he cooked up for his rock band Biting Elbows. OK, his ultra-violent sci-fi extravaganza, shot on GoPro mobile cameras, doesn’t add up to much. It’s all about the ride, the relentless wallop and whoosh. But, hey, sometimes that’s all a cine-junkie needs for a fix.