*1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Ilya Naishuller
STARS Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky
Hardcore Henry (Photo: STX)
It was amusing to read the Hardcore Henry reviews by several online critics, the sort who believe cinema didn't exist before the release of Pulp Fiction in 1994 (the really smart ones think it didn't exist before the release of The Godfather in 1972). In their gushing reviews, they breathlessly praised it for being the first first-person movie ever made, as the entire picture is shot as though everything was being seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Well, no. Back in 1947, actor Robert Montgomery directed an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Lady in the Lake, and in essaying the role of detective Philip Marlowe, he had the whole picture shot through his character's POV. Making a movie like this back in 1947 was innovative and daring; making a movie like this today just seems like the latest concession to the gamers.
To his credit, Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller at least knows he wasn't the first to employ this method, as the end credits give thanks for the use of a Lady in the Lake poster in one scene (I must have blinked — or dozed off — during its appearance). And initially, Naishuller's adoption of this concept looks like it will pay off, with the film getting off to a fast and furious start as Henry wakes up with no memories of his past — he immediately has to defend himself against a cackling villain (Danila Kozlovsky) with telekinetic powers and a Kurt Cobain makeover while also receiving aid from a mysterious guy named Jimmy (District 9's Sharlto Copley). But after an opening stretch in which the POV is used imaginatively, the novelty of the gimmick wears off, more so since Naishuller then just relies on jumbled action scenes and a succession of violent deaths to carry his picture. In fact, strip away the POV angle, and what's left is basically Hitman: Agent 47, which was second only to Fifty Shades of Grey as last year's worst film. Hardcore Henry doesn't quite plumb those murky depths, but it's nevertheless an all-hype-no-hope endeavor that grows ever more flaccid by the minute.