I was not sold by the Hardcore Henry trailer. The story looked thin: man must save beautiful, helpless wife. The movie was obviously expecting to ride on the unique visuals, making the story unfold in first person instead of third. Why not? It's worked for video games for decades.
What I expected was what I got. Henry is thinly characterized, getting little more than a flashback to his dad (a slumming Tim Roth) to explain his whole philosophy of life. I even correctly anticipated the twist with his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett). She's very lovely, and given little to do but look lovely. It appears that she is in several upcoming movies, including The Magnificent Seven and The Girl on the Train, so hopefully one of them gives her more to do.
The world isn't much more fleshed out. It's clearly in the future, because of all the cyborgs and clones and such. The bad guy, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), also has telekinetic abilities that he forgets at a crucial point because ... why not? The best scene in Hardcore Henry was one where things slowed down a bit and Henry could communicate with the helpful mad scientist Jimmy (Sharlto Copley, having fun) about what was going on. That scene had a sense of whimsy. Most of the humor in the film relied simply on trying to be more and more gross.
So here we come to the conceit. Hardcore Henry made me seasick. I never once felt I was in his shoes, because when I'm running my brain helpfully edits my vision so that it doesn't appear to be bouncing all over the place. The special-effects team worked so hard not to make it artificially smooth that it seems artificially rough. I couldn't immerse myself in the first-person point of view because life isn't viewed through a shaky cam. (And if you don't like shaky cam, this is 100x worse.)
Sometimes special-effects spectacles sacrifice story for the effects. In Hardcore Henry, neither worked for me. I just left with a headache and a sense of disquiet that everyone around me seemed to think it was an awesome movie.
Hardcore Henry opens this Friday, April 8th.