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Hardcore Henry (2015)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/26/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/20/2016

As someone who has spent some time around marketing, I'm a firm believer in truth in advertising. But, here's the thing about advertising in America -- it can often turn into a game of "Telephone" and people hear what they want to hear. Therefore, companies can bend the truth and say something which is slightly misleading, but never completely lie. Take, for example, the film Hardcore Henry. The press release for the film states that it's "the first film shot completely in first-person shooter perspective". That statement is sort of true. The keyword in there is "shooter". There have been other "first-person" movies, but Hardcore Henry claims to be the first which specifically attempts to emulate the popular video games which give the player a first-hand point-of-view. Will this implied novelty make Hardcore Henry special?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the "first-person" concept, this means that the entire film is shown through the eyes of the main character, Henry. We never seen Henry, but other characters address him by speaking directly to the camera. The idea is that everything which is happening to Henry is happening to us. As the film opens, Henry awakens in a lab, where he is told by his wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), that his memory has been erased and that his life is in danger. This is also where we learn that Henry is some sort of human/machine hybrid, as we watch Estelle attach one his legs. Suddenly, alarms sounds as Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) and his men invade the lab. Estelle and Henry escape from the lab (which was actually inside some sort of flying platform), and Henry finds himself on the run attempting to stop Akan and save Estelle.

Before we dive into dissecting Hardcore Henry, let's re-visit that assertion from the first paragraph. This is definitely not the first "first-person" movie. That honor most likely goes to 1947's Lady in the Lake, which is actually referenced in Hardcore Henry, as a poster for the film is glimpsed as one point. As far as it being "the first film shot completely in first-person shooter perspective", well, that's not true either. I haven't seen 2013's Hotel Inferno, but just from the trailer alone, I can see that it borrows directly from shooter video games. However, this is a very obscure, low-budget movie, and I doubt that many have heard of it. I guess the bottom line here is that the movie isn't as original as it wants to be, but the approach will still feel novel to many viewers.

If only Hardcore Henry had something to offer other than it's approach to cinema. That's not to imply that the movie is boring. On the contrary, there is always something happening. In fact, the movie action-packed to a fault. As I mentioned in my recent review for Summer Camp, I learned my lesson about wishing for a movie to be completely action-packed, and Hardcore Henry proves that rule. Is there a lot of action here? Yes, there is. There are constant punches and gunfights and explosions and car chases. After a very short while, it becomes numbing and you realize that you really don't want to see someone get hit again...and then the movie ends with a huge 50-on-1 fight. This might -- repeat might -- be OK if Hardcore Henry had a deep story, but as one might expect, it does not. As discussed earlier, the movie really wants to be a video game and this hits home with the plot. It plays JUST LIKE a video game, right down to the fact that Henry is given missions complete with GPS coordinates, just like we'd get in a game. There are a few twists along the way, but they are neither interesting nor surprising.

What about the "first person" approach? Does it work? Well, I can tell you that it gave me a headache, even after I took Dramamine. And I get the feeling that I won't be alone here. The constant shaky, moving camera will make many viewers sick, and many will wonder why the movie is longer than 80 minutes. The sheer amount of work which clearly went into staging each shot and the stunts involved are impressive, and one can't wonder how they did some of it. (More on that in a moment.) So, if you saw the trailer for Hardcore Henry and thought, "That look's cool.", it is cool, but that trailer is all that you need to see. Whether it needed a better story, and more controlled camera can be argued, but this the rare example of a movie being too much and being unsatisfying.

Hardcore Henry is custom made for those who like a lot of Sharlto Copley on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. Because of they way that the film was shot, there is some definite blurring of the image at times. The level of detail also suffers in some scenes. On the bright side, the picture has a nice amount of depth. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The nearly non-stop violence treats the viewer to a nice array of stereo and surround effects here, highlighting sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects are nearly constant as well, and we feel every punch and explosion.

The Hardcore Henry Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Producer Ilya Naishuller. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with Naishuller and Actor/Executive Producer Sharlto Copley. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. This offers an additional action scene and a slightly different take on the finale, but nothing completely new. "Fan Chat" (12 minutes) has Naishuller and Copley doing a sort of interview in which they answer questions posed by fans. I've been reviewing home video releases for nearly 20 years now, and it seems that the extras never answer the questions that we really have. While the commentaries and interviews somewhat answer, "How did they do that?", this is definitely a movie which needs a making of.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long