Hardcore Henry Blu-ray Review

Hardened

Obscenity and violence define Hardcore Henry. Neither of those are objections much as they are divisive qualities. Either Hardcore Henry’s ingenuity strikes one as enjoyably gonzo or its flatness in character railroads any palpable sensation.

If nothing else, this is an interesting curiosity, laced with video game tropes and set in a delightfully surreal world populated by Sharlto Copleys. Copleys, plural. Hardcore Henry’s daring deserves praise, the sort of fearless filmmaking that will spawn from a generation raised on an interactive medium. In defining itself, the movie will spread into aerial battles, tank assaults, roadway spats, and hand-to-hand combat, any of which give purpose to Hardcore Henry.

Structurally, this leans on the blockbuster video game – a rushed introduction, rapid layout of characters, and then a burst of exposition to best situate the action to follow. Concealed edits create an organic motion to a movie which feels restless and anxious, lacking in patience less the perspective have time to wane. In this sense, Hardcore Henry stays naive, believing video games only to be macho gun simulators.

Hardcore Henry is best appreciated for its physicality – how it moves and the mystery in how everything functioned on set.

Video games learned from cinema, and now it appears cinema is learning from video games. Hardcore Henry habitually loves this POV and the amplified violence which follows, utilizing any circumstance to pull a trigger or throw a punch. Same goes for the ludicrous gore, lacing Hardcore Henry with exploded skulls, decapitations, detached arms, and inventive means of dispatching groups.

Whereas the interactivity of the borrowed medium allows for leniency, the realities of film catch up to Hardcore Henry. Henry himself stays mute, and the feeble villain Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) serves as little more than a target. Forget story structure; Hardcore Henry begins with little to utilize this energy or captivate an audience meant to root for – or even be – Henry.

That aside, the fluid and thoughtful approach to piecing together these scenes is elaborate. While never convincing, Hardcore Henry is best appreciated for its physicality – how it moves and the mystery in how everything functioned on set. While visual effects stitch up the seams, how this film can be so unruly but still cognizant of what the audience can process is nothing short of spectacle. Hardcore Henry doesn’t need its lean, near future sci-fi world to work. Rather, it needs commitment from a viewer willing to consider the reality of actors and stuntmen (even director Ilya Naishuller) wearing a headmounted camera, staying aware of their surroundings and choreography, while maintaining visual scope.

Hardcore Henry Blu-ray screen shot 14

Video

Shot entirely on GoPro Hero 3s, Hardcore Henry’s visual punch won’t wow anybody. In fact, the resolution of Blu-ray doesn’t help anything. An entire scene inside of a strip club may as well be reading from a DVD.

Artifacts are in abundance. Banding, noise, aliasing; those are the start. ‘Tis the nature of the cameras, their output never meant for theatrical projection. If anything, the boost from Blu-ray amplifies the troubles. Other than a single book-ended close-up, it’s hard to gauge anything HD from Hardcore Henry.

Post-production leaves well enough alone. Colors maintain a muted if natural appearance. Some vibrancy in the contrast stays low, while shadows lose any weight. Creative, rather than striking.

Audio

Released to theaters in Atmos, that mix won’t come to Blu-ray. Universal’s treatment is a bit screwy too. The box lists DTS-HD 5.1 as does the Blu-ray audio menu. However, receiver output reads 7.1, and those extra surrounds are difficult to miss. Center rears take on voices, gunfire, debris, and whatever else the visuals require. They’re active.

Spatial sensations are strong on this track, capturing the sense of being Henry in an effective way. Tracking effects adore precision. Being such a wild film, everything has a place with limited time to rest. When surrounded, Hardcore Henry sounds as such, planting action in each speaker.

While not tremendous, there’s enough LFE support to add weight. When a tank comes rolling into view, the engines add power and logically, so do the shells being fired. A vehicle chase involves rocket launchers and exploding vans in the best way. Lots of fun here.

Extras

Two commentaries are the highlight, one with director Ilya Naishuller alone and the other with Naishuller and star Sharlto Copley together. A social media Q&A session runs 12 minutes, while deleted scenes are more extended scenes for eight minutes.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.