Film (2015 Russia; original title Khardkor). Huayi Brothers Pictures, Bazelevs, Versus Pictures. Directed by Ilya Naishuller. Written by Ilya Naishuller. Cast includes Haley Bennett, Sharlto Copley, Andrei Dementiev, Danila Kozlovsky, Tim Roth. 96 minutes. Colour.
The Cyborg "Henry" escapes from the laboratory where he was created, dropping from an Airship into the streets of Moscow. There, he joins forces with several death-prone men called Jimmy (Copley), each of whom is eventually revealed to be a telefactored Clone of Henry's Scientist creator, now wheelchair-bound and intent on wreaking revenge on Akan (Kozlovsky), the psychic criminal who funded the project. Henry and Jimmy fight their way through armies of minions, goons, cops and gangsters, in the hope of rescuing Henry's wife, Estelle (Bennett).
At face value, Hardcore Henry is merely the latest iteration in sf's oldest trope, established since Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818; rev 1831) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, of a creation that turns on its creator. In its leading man who is a puppet of a smarter Svengali, pursuing a misguided agenda, it also echoes the Paranoia of Christopher Nolan's Memento (2002), whose protagonist suffers from similar Amnesia, as well as the Neveldine/Taylor action movie Crank (2006), in which Jason Statham must consistently seek power-ups to sustain himself. But if Hardcore Henry is Frankenstein reimagined, it is done so literally from the point of view of the Frankenstein Monster itself, shot entirely in first-person perspective, as if the viewer is watching a First Person Shooter. Although best known as an hommage to the original game of Doom (1993) in the 2012 movie Tie of the same name, such styling had been seen in Russia at least as early as the gangster movie Brat 2 ["Brother 2"] (2001). This visual experiment was lifted by sometime guitarist Naishuller as a gimmick in two videos for his band Biting Elbows. It was one of these, gaining twenty million views on the Internet, that secured him the attention and funding for this movie-length continuation, in which the title character is never seen but is in fact played by several stuntmen (and, at some points, Naishuller himself) wearing a head-mounted camera rig. Moscow itself serves as an impressive alienation device, with an English-speaking cast largely uncomprehending of the panicking or aggressive Russian-speakers that surround them.
As in many games, the screen essentially shows one long action sequence, requiring the plot to be deftly imparted in asides and Infodumps. Naishuller's script extends the theme of a viewer arriving late to watch a game already in progress. Several supporting cast members, including a memorable sword-wielding biker-girl, appear to be wandering through entirely different movies, while the primary story, of Jimmy's revenge upon Akan, is only obliquely referenced, and there is no consideration at all of Henry's origins or the rationale for Akan's visually impressive psychic powers, themselves recalling Akira (1988). Sharlto Copley chews the scenery portraying Jimmy's multiple personalities, similarly extending the Videogame metaphor by appearing as a character who can respawn on multiple occasions, despite being killed in several visceral ways. [JonC]
see also: Russia.
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