My friend saw the poster for Hardcore Henry a while back and said it seemed like a cheap Mad Max ripoff. Based on the name alone, he might have been right, but based on the film, Hardcore Henry does a lot to introduce us to a wonderfully insane world full of fantastic characters, with balls to the wall action which lasts the duration of 90-plus-minute runtime.
The film immediately makes itself stand out with the way it's filmed. If you've seen the trailer or the music video for the Biting Elbows song Bad Motherfucker, you know exactly what you're getting. Aside from a few flashbacks, the film is entirely shot from a first person perspective. I often thought, as I did with Scott Pilgrim vs the World, that this film is one of the best video game movies not based on a video game. The experience may be disorienting for some, but action fans will love it. The in-your-face insanity is unrelenting and makes you really feel apart of the action.
The film does a great job of world building and depicting its near-future setting. Cyborgs are an emerging technology and telekinesis exists in some capacity that is never fully explained. Throughout the film, the movie embraces and subverts a ton of action movie cliches. I don't want to name any here because it's great seeing it all play out. But there is a fun little scene involving a horse that made the whole theater laugh.
The villain, played by Danila Koslovsky, is incredibly campy. He's a classic '80s B-movie villain, with a distinct look, pseudo-philosophical speeches, and a totally evil personality. At times, though, he felt like the poor man's Ewan McGregor — but it all works within the confines of the film. Sharlto Copley gives his best performance since District 9. There is an amazing added layer to his character that gives him a lot of room to play with. But due to its spoilerish nature, I won't mention it here.
At times, the movie was slightly homophobic and misogynistic which might rub some people the wrong way, with Copley's character going out of his way to talk about the fact that he isn't gay and how straight he is and all the women he wants to bang. Also, a few of the stand-out action moments were featured in the trailer, which bummed me out a bit.
But overall the film is hilarious and action-packed, and I sincerely hope this is a start of a new franchise with a new badass at its center. This world is just begging to be returned to in a sequel.