Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr If you’re prone to motion sickness, let me preface this review with a simple warning: Hardcore Henry is fun enough but not in any way worth making yourself ill for an hour and a half. Filmed largely with a GoPro, the entire movie uses a first person perspective to fully immerse you into the protagonist’s arc. The whole conceit makes this the most video game-y movie ever made, which should make it feel like the zenith of innovation. Instead, it’s about as rote and straightforward an action thriller as you could expect, occasionally raised to a higher level of prestige simply through its willingness to embrace absurdity. When the film begins (after a misdirecting childhood flashback and one of the most inventive credits sequences in recent memory), you wake up in Henry’s POV as a damaged man with no memory given machine parts by a beautiful woman named Estelle (Haley Bennett) who claims to be Henry’s wife. This sci-fi reunion is almost immediately broken up by the villainous Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) who wants to use the technology Estelle brought Henry back to life with to build an army of super soldiers. (It should be noted that for almost no reason at all, Akan is also a powerful telekinetic, an element of the film that is never explored or explained beyond the fact that having a Big Boss baddie who can throw people across a room just feels really right.) From there, Henry has to rescue the princess from the castle in what amounts to a breathless sprint. Marketing brands movies like this as “non-stop action thrill rides,” but this actually feels non-stop and not in a good way. I can’t remember the last time a movie-going experience felt so needlessly exhausting. Putting you in the driver’s seat the whole time makes you feel kind of like you’re going through the action on screen, but unlike in an actual video game, you’re powerless to affect any change in the narrative. You’re just thrust along for scene after scene of explosions, gun fights and hand to hand combat. This leads to constant visual incoherence. By being so inside the action, you’re actually more detached from it than you would be watching traditionally cut footage. The violence on hand also gets progressively more brazen and creative but no less comforting for repeatedly unfolding directly in your face. There are some sections where the POV gimmick improves the film, most notably in a foot chase that feels every bit as kinetic and taxing as (I imagine) chasing someone for a mile might actually be. In others, attempts to make the action as supercharged as possible lead to weird ragdoll physics and an uncanny valley approach to spatial reasoning. This sort of storytelling contrivance could be used effectively to manipulate the audience over the course of the plot, but every breather that should provide actual story progression is persistently interrupted by the next bit of action. It’s humorous at first, then somewhat frustrating, then absolutely annoying. Having a main character who is an abstraction causes its own problems. There’s very little making you root for Henry outside of the fact that we’re tethered to his POV and that “getting your wife back” is a pretty universal motivator. You’re supposed to be able to slip yourself mentally into the action, but given that all you see of Henry is that he’s thin, white and tattooed, it should be no surprise who this film is aimed at. He’s given a few little tics that allow you to overanalyze and fill in the blanks yourself, like the way he reacts in quieter, actionless scenes, or a solemn moment of him closing a dead man’s eyes. Otherwise, the only real element that makes Henry interesting is the way he’s contrasted with the character Jimmy, played by Sharlto Copley. Without Copley, there is no discernible reason to force yourself through this Mountain Dew Code Red commercial masquerading as a theatrical film release. His performance as the film’s lead non-playable character is a total blast. Copley’s made a career out of being the most entertaining person in an unsalvageable shit show, but in Jimmy he’s found his most entertaining outlet yet. Honestly, if you actually plan on watching this movie, the less said about Jimmy the better, but suffice to say, Copley is an Academy Award in a sea of fucking Razzies here. He manages to take doofy, on the nose dialogue exactly one step above “Press X to open the door, Henry!” and imbue it with such verve and panache. That said, Kozlovsky as the big villain deserves a special shout out for taking such a thin caricature and turning it into a pretty fascinating cartoon. Before seeing his Akan on screen, I never realized how much I wanted “French Albino Tommy Wiseau.” Before all is said and done, Hardcore Henry offers a fakeout mindfuck plot twist that wants you kindly to take it as seriously as the end of Bioshock, but in a film missing any gray shades, it’s hard to invest in anything enough for deception to have an effect. Most movies this pornographically violent are meant to be mindless revenge fantasies, but being stuck in the driver’s seat for the whole runtime depletes any chances of you disassociating from the carnage. This movie’s at its best when it’s (unintentionally?) conflating the twin phalluses that drive the narrative forward. At one point, when Jimmy directs Henry to pull a gun out from a drawer in a brothel, he mistakenly opens one filled with dildos. In another scene, when Jimmy shoots a henchman during an interrogation, he refers to the gun as his “ego.” There’s also a moment when Henry orally sodomizes a crooked cop with a lead pipe before he can rape a woman. Maybe if the film followed this wry, penile motif to its logical conclusions about masculinity in video game culture, it’d be as innovative as the trailers want you to believe. Instead, it’s a tiring experiment that only pops in moments of brazen bombast and macabre humor. We all loved Vin Diesel as Xander Cage in XXX, but Hardcore Henry proves that “stop thinking Prague police and start thinking Playstation!” is a terrible prompt for a screenplay.