Thursday, 14 April 2016


How do you respect something when it holds no respect for you? Hardcore Henry is clear in what it intends to express: lest you identify with its twisted sense of morality, you can expect to suffer no less than utter disrespect. It sets its stakes low, seeking to cater to a specific type of viewer, and classifying the rest of us as expendable, indeed worthy of callous provocation and mockery. Why is it that the heterosexual, white cismale insists on relentlessly denigrating us, their fellow humans, in fact a majority when combined? Society's dominant darlings can't resist a good prod at those it has already put down; perhaps it is insecurity stemming from inferiority, or at least just the fear of it? Explain the outrageous misogyny and homophobia of Hardcore Henry away all you like - the film remains a distasteful, distressing experience for those reasons alone. Moral unpleasantness aside, it retains its sense of gleeful brutality in utterly every scene, as a supremely violent thriller with one act of extreme bodily harm following another. As a collage of remarkable stunt work, Hardcore Henry is astounding, though Ilya Naishuller's penchant for gimmicky flash throttles his film's finer qualities, overloading it with boring bluster. The violence is initially startling, and Naishuller finds endless ways to keep it so, but it inevitably bottoms out of shock value - this is surely the first film in history wherein a man's head is decapitated from the mouth up using the assailant's still-attached optic nerve and it's all greeted with a mere shrug, although it's also surely the first film in history where it's greeted at all. And so, despite all that effort, Hardcore Henry ultimately fails on its own terms. At least it's got that solid sense of social responsibility to fall back on, right?