Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Andrey Dementiev, Dasha Charusha, Sveta Ustinova, Tim Roth
Written by: Ilya Naishuller, Will Stewart
Directed by: Ilya Naishuller
MPAA Rating: R for non-stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use
Running Time: 96
Date: 04/07/2016

Hardcore Henry (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Up Close & First Personal

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Shot entirely from a first-person point of view, and staged like a video game, this action extravaganza doesn't care about characters, but as an experimental exercise in pure style, it's pretty cool.

Henry wakes up in a lab, with no memory. A beautiful woman, Estelle (Haley Bennett) tells him that she's his wife, and proceeds to attach a robotic arm and leg to Henry's body. The evil Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), who seems to have telekinetic abilities, interrupts, and Henry and Estelle escape.

After a crash and a shootout, he meets Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who wants to help. He informs Henry that, now that he's a cyborg, he will need a battery change soon. Jimmy is shot, and Henry finds himself on the run again. Miraculously, Jimmy turns up, in disguise, and points Henry in the right direction: to find and take down Akan before he has a chance to unleash more robotic super-soldiers.

Director Ilya Naishuller, of the Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows, is known for making similar first-person music videos on YouTube. It's trickier to sustain that kind of energy for 90 minutes, but it works, borrowing ideas from first-person-shooters; i.e. the hero wakes up with amnesia and can't speak, other characters tell him what his tasks are, etc.

The camerawork is fluid and kinetic, but still rapid-fire; it can be dizzying, but one can get used to the effect. Sharlto Copley gets a chance to shine (or show off), playing several clones with different personas and accents. Danila Kozlovsky is a rather dull villain, but Haley Bennett makes an alluring femme fatale. One scene references Robert Montgomery's Lady in the Lake, which used the first-person perspective technique all the way back in 1947.

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