When you wake and the fluid drains out of the tank you've been lying in, you remember nothing.
Of course, that may be a good thing since your chest appears to be roughly stitched together and your body is missing several key appendages. Were you dead? Did this pretty woman scientist, who's tending to you now, bring you back in some Frankenstein-like experiment?
As she patches you up by giving you a new robotic hand and forearm and screwing on a mechanized lower leg, she says her name is Estelle. She says she's your wife. She gives you back a wedding ring and says she loves you. She smiles and is gentle with you.
Surely you would remember if you had a beautiful, loving wife like this! So what in the world is going on? What happened?
She calls you Henry. She helps you up and helps you dress. She says it's time to install your voice module. But before she can, the door blows up, men with guns storm in, and bullets fly. Estelle calls your name.
Within minutes, you're on the street in a city called Moscow. You still remember nothing. You know nothing. Strike that. You now know about a bad, bad dude named Akan: a white-haired warlord who speaks about technology, cyborg mercenaries and plans of world-domination. You know that this Akan guy now has Estelle, your helper, your wife.
And you know that you will get her back. You will pursue, kill, shoot, rend, rip and slaughter your way back to her. Yes, you're beginning to know all of those things, too. And the more you use your robotic limbs the easier all of it seems to be. Everyone wants you dead, but you know you will destroy them first. To save Estelle.
You don't remember her. But she's the only truth you know. The only beauty you've seen.
Henry's path back to Estelle is an incredibly violent and bloody one of kill-or-be-killed freneticism. But at the beginning, at least, he's doing it all to save this woman he knows so little about. He's even willing to hand over his life in exchange for hers at one point.
There's also a man named Jimmy who pops up from time to time to give Henry aid. In the course of doing so, he is seemingly killed over and over again (a mystery that's explained later in the movie).
Henry enters a men's club (brothel) where all the women are dressed in skimpy underwear or topless. We see several in the midst of sex acts with "clients"—including Jimmy. A group of them gather around a weakened and reclined Henry and encourage him to put his hands on their breasts. One of them reaches to pull down his fly (but is stopped). The camera also spies a large poster of a mostly nude woman. When Henry opens a dresser looking for weapons, he finds one drawer full of dildos and sex toys.
Akan torments Henry by caressing Estelle's breasts, smelling her crotch and putting a pair of her lace panties up to his face. Henry finds a group of cops preparing to rape a partially nude woman. (He steps forward to rescue her.)
Hundreds and hundreds of men and women are killed singly and in groups in very realistic-looking, gory ways. With what appears to be our own two hands we look down gun sights and blow people's brains out, viciously snap arms, legs, necks and backbones; we disembowel and slash. With an arsenal of found weapons we paint nearly every surface with blood and refuse. We use knives, swords and other sharp objects to stab necks, guts, legs, eyes and crotches. We crush a man's testicles in our hands. We slam heads with heavy objects and grind faces into rough concrete walls. We throw grenades and watch as dismembered corpses fly, as men literally blow in half. We wrap wire around a foe's head and pull until his face splits in two. We reach into chests and rip out organs, grab a man's fingers and tear his hand apart.
A man has a silver platter embedded in his skull. A woman has shrapnel burst out through her chest. Cars blow up in fiery crashes, vans are blown out with grenades and bazooka fire. Flamethrowers crisp screaming victims. Crowds are crushed by falling debris.
Crude or Profane Language
Over 30 f-words and a dozen s-words join several uses of "d--n" and "h---." Genitalia crudities are tossed around (including the c-word, "p---y" and "d--k"). God's and Jesus' names are profaned.
Drug and Alcohol Content
In the course of meeting Jimmy over and over again, we see him smoke tobacco, snort cocaine, toke repeatedly on a joint and drink from a large bottle of booze. Henry and another man take a pull from Jimmy's marijuana joint as well. During a heated battle, Henry comes upon a medicine cabinet and jams two needles of adrenaline into his legs.
Other Negative Elements
Reviewers have called Hardcore Henry "inventive," "one of a kind," "totally nuts" and "relentless." They've compared it to a "soar-and-crash overdose." Stephen Whitty, writing for the New York Daily News, went so far as to say, "You could go see Hardcore Henry—or you could gulp down a pint of vodka, load in Grand Theft Auto, then strap the TV to your face and throw yourself down the stairs. It's the same experience, except my way saves you $15 and some pain." Then he called it "stupid as a bag of hammers and twice as loud."
This is a film of exceeding violence that's delivered in the form of a first-person shooter video game. Russian Director Ilya Naishuller has created something very different from anything you've likely ever seen at the theater. In fact, with its bouncing and tumbling GoPro camera perspective and its feverish and frenzied nonstop action coupled with the ever-spewing vomit of shootings, stabbings, burnings, bone breaks and flesh-rends, it's very hard to call it a film at all.
So let's just call it a an hour and a half of fast-forward kill clips.
After holding down my gorge during the thrashing and flailing visuals, and making the effort of piecing together some sci-fi story threads that flash by amidst bashed-in skulls, raw dialogue and bared breasts, the best I can say about Hardcore Henry is that it's a … gutsy experiment.
Of course, throwing yourself headfirst into a garage-sized blender would be pretty gutsy, too—though not much of a movie night.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Sharlto Copley as Jimmy; Danila Kozlovsky as Akan; Haley Bennett as Estelle; Tim Roth as Henry's Father
Ilya Naishuller ( )
April 8, 2016
July 26, 2016