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Hardcore Henry

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Hank drops in on people trying to kill him.

I’ve been getting really tired of how critics have rated movies lately, so I’m going to start this review stating something. Any critic that gives this a bad review, but praised the last Mad Max — is insane. Now, I was one of the few critics that was just lukewarm on Mad Max: Fury Road. It had a few good stunts, but was basically one long car chase with not much plot. This movie is one long, video game shoot-out, with little plot. Yet it has a few other things going for it. It’s got this whole P.O.V. thing where we’re watching everything from Henry’s first person perspective. It adds a layer of intensity to the action. We also get some dark humor that works well.

The filmmaker is 29-year-old Russian IIya Naishuller, who fronts a Moscow punk band called “Biting Elbows.” He used Gopro cameras to make innovative videos. After one for his song “Motherf***er” got over 40 million views, various directors encouraged him to do a feature film (those would include Timur Bekmambetov and Darren Aronofsky).

Naishuller loves the films of Quentin Tarrantino (and Tarrantino will love this), and using Gopro cameras, he came up with a rather clever gimmick; although by the 3rd act, you’ll be a bit exhausted. It’s like you just played a video game for two hours while on coke. Yet many times you’ll scratch your head wondering how they choreographed such scenes.

Here’s the basic plot. Henry wakes up in a lab. He’s missing half his leg and one of his arms. The beautiful nurse/scientist (Haley Bennett) tells him they’re married, and because of all he’s been through, he won’t remember much. He’s given some bionic parts (we’re quickly shown his hand crushing an apple). A man named AKAN (Danila Kozlovsky), who looks part Edgar Winter, part Doc Brown from Back to the Future, and the cadence of a James Bond villain…quickly kills everyone in the lab. One of the few elements of the movie that doesn’t work, is that AKAN has telekinetic powers.

Henry didn’t have a chance to have his voice box inserted, so he’s mute. That makes for a few humorous moments and adds to some confusion among the people he meets. One person we meet often is Jimmy (Sharlto Copley). He’s hysterical in his various costumes, and even in his song and dance number.

The movie never takes itself too seriously, and if you can suspend a bit of disbelief, hang on for the ride. Oh, you might want to skip it if you get motion sickness easily. I noticed at least 20 people leave the screening for this reason. It was odd that the people with little kids didn’t leave, as this was a rather gory flick (with lots of nudity, including one scene taking place in a brothel with a few orgies going down).

The pace was fun and exhilarating , with various parkour style chases and clever shoot-outs. It was helped along with some electro music that made you feel like you were at an underground club in Russia. The score was perfect, and the song selection fun — The Stranglers, Cole Porter, The Temptations, Sublime, and Queen doing “Don’t Stop Me Now” as Henry has to fight off a bunch of cyborg types.

I would’ve liked to see more Tim Roth, and a better story would’ve been nice. Overall though, this is a groundbreaking gimmick that works.

2 ½ stars out of 5.