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Hardcore Henry is told from the point of view of a human brought back from near-death, rebuilt as a cybernetic supersoldier.

<137>Courtesy of <137>STX Entertainment

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Hardcore Henry
Written by
Ilya Naishuller
Directed by
Ilya Naishuller
Starring
Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky and Haley Bennett
Classification
R
Country
USA
Language
English

You're the star in a film that has "hardcore" in the title, but don't get the wrong idea. Yes, it's porn, but porn of the one-man-army kind, bodies piling up in an orgy of killing only. Have we got your attention? Good. Lights, body-mounted cameras and oh-so-much action – hope you're ready for your close-up.

Hardcore Henry is the brainchild of Ilya Naishuller, a first-time director who, as the frontman for the Moscow punk rockers Biting Elbows, once conquered the Internet with his first-person music video. His new sci-fi exciter is 96 minutes of delirious non-stop action from the point of view of the titular hero – a human brought back from near-death, rebuilt as a cybernetic supersoldier, with his memory seemingly washed with Spic 'n Span. Think The Six Million Dollar Man as Jason Bourne being John Malkovich playing Call of Duty.

Is it much of a movie? Not really. It's more of an experience – a passive sort of virtual reality – that uses a bare-bones narrative as a vehicle for a big-time body count. The South African director/actor/producer Sharlto Copley (who plays a mischievous scientist and popping-up-everywhere ally to Henry) saves this cinematic stampede from being all style and whiz-bang gimmick.

Story continues below advertisement

Things get under way with Henry (you) being revived in a lab. He doesn't know what's going on and neither does the filmgoer, which is kind of the point. That ravishing woman, played with no special effects required by Haley Bennett, is your wife? Not bad, Henry. Not bad at all.

It gets hairy right quick when the lab's security is breached. A bewildered Henry is on the run in a Moscow foreign to him, and his battery (literally) is running low. We see the world from Henry's eyes, and we get an eyeful when he ends up in a brothel. Eventually a villain emerges: Akan, a bwahaha guy played without distinction by the Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky. The man has a Warholian wig and complexion, a flair for telekinetic feats of strength and a jones for world domination.

Here, writer-director Naishuller gets lazy. Akan is the devilish plotter behind his own bioengineered army, but we haven't a clue about his background. Naishuller has explained that he was "tired of origin stories," no doubt yawning for full auteur-ish effect. Anyhow, a comic book (Hardcore Akan, available digitally on April 8 and in print this August) serves as a prequel of sorts to Hardcore Henry. A quick fix – the kind of which Kubrick and Tarantino probably would not approve.

However, those two filmmakers would likely vote for a soundtrack that ironically employs Cole Porter's I've Got You Under My Skin. And while Hardcore Henry has been deemed too hardcore by the Ontario Film Review Board – the film is restricted to audiences 18 and older – extreme bloodletting is no issue for a true cinematic maestro.

Naishuller isn't one of those, his film being too silly for such a status. It is a wild ride, though, and fun for the moment – an adrenalin needle to the popcorn junkie's heart.

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