Sunday, 17 April 2016

Hardcore Henry review

After months and months of waiting, and critical highs followed by critical lows, I finally got a chance to set eyes upon Hardcore Henry - that first person action movie directed by Ilya Naishuller. I had so much to say after the screening that I've actually written what I think is my longest review yet! In it, I also discuss the production process, and the critical evaluation of the film that has dropped it to 51% on RT. Needless to say I think that's unfair! Hit the jump for my review...


Hardcore Henry has had the biggest critical downfall I have ever seen - and that's saying something. It currently holds 51% on Rotten Tomatoes (although that could go down given that we're only a week after release), but just over a week ago it was at 89% and I'm pretty sure at one point it was well over 90... Here's the story:

Well, erm, this is getting us off to a flying start.
On the 18th March 2013, Ilya Naishullers semi-big punk/rock band Biting Elbows released their 'Bad Motherfucker' video. Chances are, you've seen it - as it became a pretty huge viral hit (known on most online sources as the 'insane office escape video'). If you've not seen it, you should check it out, but essentially it concerned a first person parkour escape from a cubicle office environment - combined with some pretty strong violence. It's not like the idea was new - the infinitely more controversial 'Smack my Bitch Up' video by the Prodigy preceded it by over a decade - but it was executed with the near perfection that, amongst other things, prompted the Youtube comment "Damn, this should be made into a feature film". I mean, it's really friggin awesome - a testament to the power of raw action sequences without context.

And whadayaknowit, Russian CGI overusing producer/director Timur Bekmambetov gave Naishuller a buzz about turning his lil' viral hit into a real big movie. The tale told by the director goes that he initially didn't want to, but then Bekmambetov asked if 'he wanted to see a great pov film in a theater'. Naturally the response was yes - "well go make it then". So began the quest to create "Hardcore", which ran headlong into pre-production without a story or a script. Some footage later, and the well known Kickstarter/Indiegogo pages for the funding of the project took hold. This is where I first found out about it. Sharlto Copley was also on board - so there was a guaranteed 'star' (at least in the cult fandom world) presence. Knowing the internet, 'Hardcore' was the sort of film that was funded instantly - and that was that.

An awesome fight scene in motion!
A small independent film by a first-time director, with a mid-profile star, funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and filmed entirely in Russia. Sure Bekmambetov was involved - but lets be honest; he was involved with 'Apollo 18' as well, so let's not go there! Everything was going perfectly at this point... I expected a straight to DVD release (as did, I assume, the crowdfunders who wanted their damn DVDs and gun-shaped USBs). You know the kind: the holographic, or shiny, beautifully rendered slipcases that are engineered to draw in the punters at video stores, who would likely not know about the film. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Then, peculiarly, it was announced the film was premiering at Toronto International Film Festival. Completely unexpectedly, the screening was reported to be an absolute riot filled with laughter, shocked gasping, and a general sense of amazement. here is where all those amazing trailer quotes originate from, and most of the favorable reviews. One negative review - the Guardian's - was perhaps the only that I can think of. In interviews, the focus was on congratulating Naishuller on an impeccable film; and the man himself was rather taken with his own effort. Together with Copley and the magazine correspondents, they set Hardcore up to be the hit of the year, nah, fuck that, the hit of the decade. It was an unbelievable success story against all of the odds - but, like an eager horse at the Grand National, it had broke into it's sprint too early for it's own good.

Immersive is the right word...
Personally, I think STX Entertainment may have brought about the undoing of Hardcore. A virtually unknown company, they paid a whopping $10 million for the distribution rights: the biggest deal of the whole festival. But their inexperience was shown in their terms - a worldwide theatrical wide release. Bad idea. Really bad idea. You don't take a niche midnight movie and transport it to the mainstream. Maybe an expanding limited release would have drawn in the punters (a la the Blair Witch Project), but for me, this project seemed risky at best. Still, at film festivals the film was constantly performing well - so hey, at least one side of the critical/commercial battle was being won (the right side!). It's worth noting that they also changed the name to 'Hardcore Henry' here, allegedly because of copyright issues (but probably also involving the definite insinuation of porn that the original title brought).

'Protect the cripple'. Yes that is a quote.
Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. A few days before release, all the major papers in the world published  their verdicts on Hardcore Henry. Gone were the dozens upon dozens of 4 and 5 star reviews: replaced by 1 and 2 star pans, often by the same publications that had raved about it in the first instance. The aggregated score calculated by Rotten Tomatoes veered from Certified fresh, to fresh, to acceptable, to a sickly green image of a splat beside an unimpressive figure: 51%. It could still go down, as we're just over a week after release. Search anywhere on the web and the words 'awesome', 'incredible', and 'insane' have been replaced with 'boring', 'unimaginative', and 'mundane'. This likely had some impact on it's opening weekend gross of $5.1 million (compared to 'The Boss'' $23.5 million on the same weekend). I think the main issue is that a midnight audience at TIFF or SXSW is not the same as a critical heavyweight on a Sunday morning preview. STX shouldn't have released it wide: it's most likely the source of the problem. Nevertheless, this is the most successful crowdfunded film I've ever heard off (with Blue Ruin grossing a modest 32, 608 on it's far more limited schedule). And, as you've probably guessed, I was super-hyped to see the craziness on the big screen. A hype that was dulled slightly by the critical massacre, but that lived on in my heart. So here goes: my review of Hardcore Henry.

The opening escape...
The film begins with a hallucinatory flashback of the protagonist as a child - facing three bullies who menacingly throw his toy at the wall, whereupon it shatters in ultra-slow motion. The film quality at this point is beautiful HD, so I assume it was filmed at a later date than the rest of the feature (which was shot with Gopro cameras), and Tim Roth appears from nowhere to call you a pussy - so it's all good. After a cut to black, we're greeted with a ultra uber slow motion compendium of extreme violence, rendered in midnight black and blood red as the opening titles roll. And guess what? It's set to the Stranglers 'Let Me Down Easy'. A 1980s track, clearly having a bit of fun with itself - but the violence presented onscreen, oh my it's brutal. People were openly sighing/gasping/laughing during it. One thing's for sure, it certainly sets the tone for the movie: but it's so perfect it gave me the chills. Whoever chose that song is a friggin genius! I think it's probably a reference to James Bond opening sequences, with a catchy tune and a very coordinated visual style. Except to see this before a Bond flick would be a little more than shocking...

So so far, so cool. Then the 'story', as you probably already know it, begins. You, yes you, awake in a lab to be confronted by your wife (who is doing her best Jennifer Lawrence impression (I kid ( but, seriously - Hayley Bennett is discount Jennifer Lawrence))). You can't speak or do emotions, so it's up to the audience to project their own selves into the character. Yes, I know this is a direct lift from videogames, but it's pretty neat in a film form. One thing I'm gonna mention here is that the footage is more than a little grubby - Gopros are good for viral videos, but not A-OK for wide release blockbusters. Goddammit STX Entertainment.

So, erm, is this movie violent?
Before you know it, Tommy Wiseau has battered down the door, and seriously gored some scientists up. When I say Tommy Wiseau, its Danila Kozlovsky - but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. I think it might be due to Russian being his first language and he's speaking in English, but I swear his delivery is uncannily like the master of bad acting himself. And, you know, that's not a negative thing. It's entertaining, 80s camp, and when he's so damn evil, it makes him a really fun and unique character. I love it. So, er, I guess we have to escape and that... so we do, in a flourish of shitty unnecessary CGI that will look like the worst thing ever made in 10 years time. In other reviews, I've made perfectly clear that I have never seen 100% realistic CGI, so I don't really mind when something looks fake, but to put your laboratory in a blimp floating above earth when you clearly can't CGI well enough is ludicrous... but, I guess, it's kinda cool and we're living the 80s vibes so who gives a flying banana.

A very nice piece of framing in POV.
THEN the movie begins. That preamble has taken about 10/11 minutes, and it's all stylistically worthwhile, but you've come for the 1.5 hour fight so now you can have it. Also, you can have Sharlto Copely: in a better role than Wikus from District 9. Well, I say role, but it's more like 10: because Jimmy keeps on dying, and whenever he dies he comes back to life as another character. It's an interesting sci-fi conceit - but it's a direct finger pointed at the NPC. Perhaps, in some postmodern analysis world, Naishuller is criticizing that component of videogame convention. Then again, probably not; I wouldn't be aiming highbrow for this at all. Copley is known for being a stereotypically wacky actor - and this is an incredibly wacky role. It's meaty, diverse, and most of all it's the comic relief for the majority of a film that has a very dark heart (more on that later). Jimmy's primary function in the filmmakers eyes is to guide the viewer/Henry to different points on a GPS map of Moscow, whereupon large fight scenes ensue. And that's basically the movie... Henry fights his way through Moscow with the help of Jimmy, to save his wife and kill Akan. Akan, by the way, also wants to take over the world and has an army of super-soldiers. So have fun with that.. there's more to it than that, however, as we need to figure out the true nature of Jimmy and of course have the customary final twist before it ends.

Oh hai Mark....
Sure, it's not a story - strong piece, but I've got a lot to talk about nonetheless. First of all: Russia. Naishuller honors his filming location of Moscow pretty much constantly. Of course, the film is set there. But a large portion of it is spoken in Russian with subtitles. With no rhyme or reason, characters switch from English to Russian in a matter of seconds - often for comedic effect. For instance, a Russian soldier switches to speaking English to say 'lets see what this fucker can do to this fucker', or two prostitutes switch to Russian so that Naishuller can jumble their subtitles up all over the screen to emphasize the manic confusion. Copley even speaks Russian at multiple points. As a little joke, Naishuller doesn't even subtitle 'suka' - videogames and movies have taught us what it means well before his vision. So yeah, I really liked the dual-language setup. It provided a platform for a heartfelt homage, an acknowledgement of location, and a unique way to create humor throughout.

Here we have a fun, campy, action throwback using some unique filmography (again, I'll get to that): but the fact is Hardcore Henry is nasty - very nasty. It's in the worst possible taste imaginable, and I don't say that lightly. FYI, a backstory comic poses that Akan is created by the Chernobyl explosion, and that he also caused it.  The language is excessively and constantly vulgar, everyone save a few central characters are treated with severe contempt, and the sheer amount of cruel kills earns the movie it's name. Henry opens no less than three chests (including his own), explodes no less than two heads, and brutally executes everyone from civilians, to soldiers, to policemen. As an example, at one point Henry bursts the balls of a policeman with his super-strong arm whilst simultaneously ramming his own baton down his throat. That's far from an isolated incident however. The final 10 minutes of the film, mostly set to 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen absolutely apes most fight scenes out there for brutality - including such staples as the Kingsman Church scene. I believe IMDB has it down as 'ending sequence could be considered offensive', and one commentator on Indiewire simply called it 'awfully nasty'. So you really need to know what you're coming for before you see this movie, and you're not coming for morality. Because that's one of the attributes this movie lacks.

You didn't think they called it 'Hardcore Henry' for a reason, huh?
That said, this movie is really damn funny. And it has it's fair share of locations to keep the material fresh. There's a scene in a pulsating sanguine neon strip-bar, a scene in a park, a scene in a subway, a couple scenes on country roads, a couple scenes in Moscow city center, a scene on a bridge, a scene in an apartment block, a scene in an abandoned building, a scene in a skyscraper, a scene on top of a skyscraper, a scene in the woods.... and that's just the ones that pop into my head. Nor are these scenes just plain fight scenes. There's a hilariously comedic scene with a horse that's ironically set to the Magnificent 7 theme tune; there's a hazy, drug fueled, woodstock inspired scene with stoner Jimmy in a clearing in the woods; a musical number complete with singing and dancing (I know right); and there's an ever so awkward sex scene in a brothel. Again, that's just what comes to mind. Comedy-wise, Jimmy is constantly cracking jokes - and the film likes to be rather self aware. For instance, during a scene in the strip bar, a prostitute begins to unzip Henry's fly in full view on screen - but as the audience begins to cringe and go 'this really can't be happening', Jimmy bursts in and everything stops. Soldier Jimmy likes to crack one liners such as 'excellent' or 'tally ho!' or 'jolly good' after particularly spectacular kills; and of course the immortal 'Akan is a cunt'. But perhaps the aforementioned horse scene was the funniest. Very simple, but it left me laughing for a good few minutes afterwards. As did the cheesy Akan line - "Ah how sweet. If this was a cup of tea I wouldn't need sugar".

Many times in more favorable reviews, Naishuller has been called 'The Next Tarantino', and that's something I can really see. Whereas Tarantino would reference the 70s/80s movies of his childhood, Naishuller is content with referencing, well, Tarantino, as well as a large range of videogames. The credits evoke James Bond, Jimmy is a NPC, Sniper Jimmy is a direct lift from Modern Warfare, Tommy Jimmy is a direct lift from COD4, Nerd Jimmy is Wikus from District 9, the final fight is set up like the Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill, the horse scene is a tribute to the western, the boss kill is quite clearly a 'fatality' from Mortal Kombat, the uniform the bad guys wear is straight out of 'A Clockwork Orange, Henry does a lot of videogame behavioral things (see later paragraph), and there's a poster room filled with, I presume, Naishullers favorite references. I guess I'll just have to wait for the DVD release to pause the screen and see what I missed, but I got 'SUPERHOT', a Bill Hicks poster, Left4dead, and 'The Lady in the Lake'. These are the references that I picked out, but there could easily be more. There's even a very jammy reference to the Bad Motherfucker video - with the same bottle of vodka displayed in scene. Essentially, Hardcore Henry represents the zeitgeist of pop-culture through the eyes of the director.

Wait a minute... you were in The Hole, in 3D!
Right, down to the matter at hand: does the POV method of storytelling work? I feel like there's pros and cons to the experience. So, firstly, it's almost entirely filmed on Gopro Hero 3 Black cameras. That's a consumer grade piece of equipment I can pick up for under £300 new... or probably around £190/£200 on Ebay. Thinking about Tangerine, the acclaimed 'transgender revenge comedy' that was mostly lauded for it's having been shot using £400-600 iphones, makes me wonder why Hardcore Henry isn't being praised more for it's empowerment of consumer tech. The problem is, £300 consumer tech is a little low quality when projected onto a big screen - but it wasn't too big a deal. Apart from that, the actual method of shooting is ingenious. Face mounted camera rigs were used to film the whole thing - whoever played Henry (it was a variety of people, including Naishuller) must have had to keep their head as still as possible! The thing is, a camera mounted to a head moves in direct correlation with head movements. Your eyes do not. Read this sentence whilst shaking your head. Your vision remains completely stable, right? So why is it in Hardcore Henry that head shaking, running, and any movement whatsoever renders the scene heavily in motion with a degree of blur? There's too much unnecessary kineticism to make it a 100% technical success. It's not exactly the teams fault, however, as a Gopro will not behave like an eye!  They filmed it at a slower frame rate I believe as well - which I think makes it stutter and shake a bit too much for my liking. Apart from these little technical issues that you probably wouldn't even notice unless you were looking for them, the first person perspective is absolutely invigorating!

Because a star cameo is always needed.
The makers are sorta claiming that this is the first POV film ever made... but we all know it's not. Well, for a start, the Lady in the Lake (it's shite so don't bother) is not only well known, but also referenced in the poster room. Then, some of you may remember the Elijah Wood horror remake 'Maniac' which was also completely shot in the first person. Then there's the hallucinogenic first person of 'Enter the Void'. Then there's the dash/helmet cam films like 84C Mopic and End of Watch; and then there's that 4 minute scene in 'Doom' where Karl urban goes and shoots up the base (it's a very good scene in a meh movie). And, of course, why are we forgetting every single found footage movie ever made. Because, basically, the ambition of a found footage movie is to create a sort of POV movie with the meta conceit of the camera being the star. Also, in recent years, it gives an excuse for shite quality footage, but that's another matter entirely. So Hardcore Henry's conceit isn't entirely unique, but (apart from that 4 minute sequence) it IS the only first person shooter film. And that's pretty unique. Because the thing is, apart from Enter the Void, none of those films on that list are particularly thrilling - and it's enter the Void's neon drift that makes it so exciting. But Hardcore Henry IS exciting. Very exciting. Unlike the found footage gimmick which was pretty cool and meta at the start, Henry's is pure adrenaline - and that's to be applauded.

The use of actual practical stunt and effect work also adds to the overall awe of the experience. Because you know, when you watch somebody jump off a building - the stuntman jumped off a friggin building! The slight fisheye curve of the Gopro lens emphasises the achievements - giving heights more gravitas for those who are prone to vertigo; and making characters who get right in your face more confrontational. A couple behind the scenes videos (currently there's a B-Roll and a music video for Ilya's band) go further to add more awe and showcase the hard work that went into the film. It's definitely a Mad Max style technical achievement that puts skill and brilliance above ease. Why oh why, then, is it apparently necessary to load the whole affair with bad CGI? The answer, of course, is that it's not necessary in the slightest. But the blimp, and an awful scene in the AKAN corporation lobby (fair enough that the director has explained why it looks so bad) just let the film down a tad. There are impressive special effects too: Akan has supernatural telekenesis powery things so is constantly making people hover like Darth Vader (another reference I presume), and these scenes are always very realistic so props to them....

They is coming to get you bruv.
And, as I've already touched upon, the acting is perfect for this type of film. You have the fantastic Copley, who plays a huge variety of incredible characters. You have the Russian Tommy Wiseau, who can easily make you laugh as well as being a genuinely unhinged perfectly pitched bad guy. And you have Haley Bennett.... who has a very diverse role indeed, but I don't want to spoil where her narrative goes. They're the main group of characters - and you of course - and they're all very, very good. Perfect, in fact: there's not one rotten egg on the basket (so you can count acting out of the 'problems' that some critics have found in the film). Speaking about problems, hows about we address them now?

Well, there's a very strong undercurrent of hate about how Hardcore Henry feels like a videogame. Naishuller has made a very conscious attempt in various interviews to say that this is a movie for cinemagoers. And there's something extra that gamers will get out of it - but it's not made for them. It's made as a unique, fun experience for people that love movies. I am not a gamer. I own a PC, it has Steam on it. I own an Xbox 360, and a Wii that hasn't been touched in 5 years (apart from House of the dead: overkill as that game is damn near perfect on a cinematic level). On average, I probably spend less than an hour every two weeks playing games unless an incredible wild card like SUPERHOT comes to the fore. So I play games occasionally, but probably not even once a week. And I loved the film. Whats videogamey about it? Well, it has the first-person perspective which I'm pretty sure can't be dismissed as a pure video-game rip off. Films got there first in 1947, and we see our lives from a first person perspective, so you can't go pin the whole idea on Call of Duty. Next: the criticism that watching Hardcore Henry is no more fun than watching somebody else play GTA in front of you, whilst you wait for your turn. Plainly false. Because, you see, when you go to someones house to play a game, you go to someone else's house to play a game. The wait to play the game, just watching the other person is boring and pained compared to the actual playing of it. Whereas, with Hardcore Henry, you've paid to specifically come and see an action movie with a story, and some awesome sequences. You have not come to play anything. I'm not denying that the gaming references are aplenty: there's a few left4dead throwbacks, some of the Jimmies are parodies of game characters (but more criticising them than celebrating them), in the violent final scenes, you inject adrenaline as a sort of power-up, and even climb floating bodies as a kind of platformer. The setups act a little bit like levels (there's even what I would hesitantly call a tutorial).  But these are base general videogame homages rather than specific referencing. It's something that anyone involved in pop culture for the last couple decades can appreciate. Put it this way, as a movie lover who isn't a gamer, I loved it for its movie content.

The only image on the web that kind of summarizes the opening credits...
So critic myth number one debunked: Hardcore Henry is not merely a videogame, nor should it's various influences put off anyone not interested in that medium. Onto the second concern: the film is troubling in terms of it's representation. The main thrust of this argument seems to be that the film is highly sexist, and that it is somewhat homophobic/juvenile. Well I'm not going to pretend that it's not juvenile so we can just ignore that! It's called 'Hardcore Henry' for Christs sake... So sexism then. There's three main male characters: you, Copley, and Akan. No other male character has impact on the story. There's one main main female character - played by Bennett, but there are two other female characters that contribute to the action. So that's 3 and 3, not in-proportionate. Slightly skewed male, but hey - look at the Avengers. Admittedly, the rest of the women are portrayed as sex objects. But, the rest of the men are portrayed as ruthless soldiers - so any gender misnomers are occurring on both sides. There's no more inherent discrimination to the woman characters than there is to the male. The main female character turns out to be quite a badass with no spoilers in this review; and the other two characters may be strippers; but one has a katana, the other has a machine gun, and they ride motorcycles better than Jimmy so fuck it. They all kick ass. Added to this, in most Hollywood fare nowadays, women are still not treated like proper characters, so why pick Hardcore Henry out of the rest? I'm not going to condone the representation, nor am I going to condone the stereotypes of either gender; but I wonder why, after the last century of film, critics choose this one to discuss prejudice?

The return of Wikus.
Then there's the supposed undertones of gay hate. Okay I thought this may have been a problem with the film being shot in Russia and all, but there's really nothing to worry about. Tim Roth calls you a 'pussy', but again, no spoilers here, it's not as it seems - so any critic that comments negatively on that is not only sorely mistaken, but lying. And you get called a 'pussy' again by one character early on in the movie. Once. I think we can forgive that... As for the 'homophobia', Copley's character is a little bit on the edge of that spectrum. In one scene, and one scene only (contrary to what some critics are saying), Copely says 'Look, I know there's a stigma about blokes who like musicals..... I'm as straight as an arrow'. So, number one, that's not very offensive I'm afraid. In the large scheme of things that are said in modern movies, a character asserting their sexuality as straight is on the low-level end of being inappropriate. Number two, and here's the thing, dem critics don't seem to realise that characters can be complex. It's as if years of mind-numbingly shit Marvel movies have got them too accustomed to two tone blandness. Copley can be the funny guy, the good guy; but also have his own side motivations, and personal prejudices too. Like a real person, Copley is presented as having good attributes, and bad attributes. I don't understand how somebody can deduct stars from a review because one of the characters makes a homophobic remark? Surely we don't have to agree with everything a character says and does in a movie to like the movie, do we? One thing I did notice, however, that I've not seen one other reviewer mention is the strange racial situation. I didn't see one non-white face throughout the whole film. I mean, 'Hardcore' makes no racist remarks or insinuations - but I just thought it was weird that they managed to make a whole film without anybody who wasn't white. Russia is known I suppose for it's racism and homophobia, but that's not really explanatory. But hey, it's just a thought.

And here we get to the final 'big problem' - that the film has 'no story'. OK, well here's your story: you awake in a lab, with your wife telling you that you've been in an accident. A crazy evil guy kidnaps her, so you go in search of her with the help of a mysterious shapeshifting man. As you go on your quest, you find out little details that lead to your identity, the identity of Jimmy, and Akans plan before building to a climax. There's a cohesive. Friggin. Story. Stop complaining about the lack of plot when there is a plot! I genuinely wanted to know who the hell Jimmy was, and then when I found out I wanted Henry to rescue his wife, and then at the end during the supercharged final battle, I wanted Akan to be defeated. I don't see anything wrong with that character arc, or the synopsis. Sure, it's story light - I'm not under any illusions. But it's sufficient, and that, by definition, is enough.

An action sampler...
I think, by exploring these oft cited criticisms, a comparison piece has popped up conveniently. It was my first ever review: a 5 star rave for Mad Max: Fury Road. This time last year actually (what a coincidence). There's no way in hell that I regret giving that incredible movie 5 stars. But if one is to be a critic, then one has to be consistent. Unfortunately, it seems to me that if a critic does not like a film, they will find any excuse to fail it. And if a critic likes a film, they will find any excuse to promote it. Well the critics loved Mad Max and they hate Hardcore Henry - but there's some more than superfluous similarities. Firstly, whereas Naishuller crashed cars and shot people in Moscow, Miller did it in the desert. Fury Road was highly commended for it's constant practical effects and stuntwork, whereas Hardcore Henry was left being called 'boring' and 'unimaginative'. Hmm. Next, both films were very low on plot. Mad Max was an escape chase, followed by another chase. The plot was 'I wanna be free', then 'let's take over the world and make it better'. That was it. In the same way, Hardcore Henry is just a big chase scene through Moscow - with a similarly bare-bones plot. But Miller was praised for his simple back-to-basics story, which let the action take center stage. Naishuller is being pummeled for a plot 'thinner than a pancake'. And then there was this notion that Mad Max was a really feminist masterpiece. Well, I'm not doubting that; but apart from Furiosa (and the old women who themselves were sexist ( read my review, I'm not going into it in another one!)), all the other women appeared to be sex objects (the scantily clothed brides just featuring as eye-candy in a water scene that was, let's face it, a wet t-shirt competition). Now, I'm in no way going to hate on Miller's masterwork. But if you're going to hail it as a feminist triumph, then you can't call another film in which a main female character is so strong and has so much power (aargh, no spoilers is really hurting me) a work of disgustingly infantile sexism. It's the same way that when critics hated Kill Bill Vol. 1, they turned on Tarantino for saying that Beatrix Kiddo was a strong female character. Well of course she's a strong fucking female character! But no no, the critics deeply disagreed. But what makes Furiosa a stronger female character than Kiddo? What makes Bennett weaker than Furiosa? Not much, if anything. An old, out of touch critic who hates the hyperkineticism of Henry would be happy to proclaim these issues, simply because he disliked the movie's concept. And that's in no way right.
Aaaaaaah, vertigo....

And lastly, but not least,I feel like I should mention the incredible soundtrack. First, there's that marvelous usage of 'Let me Down Easy' (which makes complete tonal sense, and fits so well when you think about it after, in relation to that final 5 minutes). Naturally, the use of Queen in the most brutal fight scene as well is a bit of a masterstroke. But The Sonics, Leo Sayer, the Temptations, and Sublime all feature - not to mention Ilya's own outfit Biting Elbows. So it's a pretty fantastic affair on the musical front - using techno and punk for when it wants to be a bit more serious, but dropping some 70s/80s tracks for when it just wants to be a fun, goofy ride. Here, despite all the work put into other aspects of the film, Naishuller hasn't let the soundtrack tail off as a second thought - an admirable feat.
Behind the scenes :O. 

I think I'm at the end of what turned out to be a very long review indeed.... It just goes to show how much there is to talk about with Hardcore Henry. No matter how much I loved it, I don't think I can quite give it 5 stars - the technical issues that Gopros presented, combined with the CGI overabundance (along with a few niggling concerns I mentioned earlier) just, and I mean JUST, took the top accolade away. If I did half stars, which I don't cause it's a cop out, it would be getting 4.5. Why? Because Hardcore Henry is probably the most fun you can legally have in a cinema. It's a tough, brutal, and incredibly bad taste exploitation movie wrapped up in a warm and cuddly 1980s throwback campfest. It's got vulgar language, vile violence, and Sharto Copely playing 10 characters or something... It's got an awesome soundtrack, and an incredible range of locations, ideas, and scenes. Take all that good stuff, then wrap it up into a unique cinematic concept, with the Russian Tommy Wiseau, and you have a surefire cult hit. It is truly, as Copley and Naishuller term it, an elaborate theme park ride (crossed with a rock concert if you see it in a rowdy cinema). You step on, have a really friggin good time, then step off again. And then you want to ride it again instantly afterwards. You know where I'll be this Weekend...

Hardcore Henry gets 4 stars!


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