HARDCORE HENRY REVIEW

Stupid, ridiculously violent, messed up BUT . . . not bad at all.

Henry is resurrected from death with no memory, and he must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

Imagine if Crank was made into a f**ked up first person shoot em up video game walk through and you wouldn’t be far off this.

A disjointed flashback with a wasted Tim Roth (Wasted as in talent NOT wasted in the other variety) and an ultra-violent 80s style James Bond title sequence didn’t build high hopes. Seriously I wasn’t ready to see a dude glassed in the throat super slo-mo styley within the first minute.

However, the opening lab sequence was engaging enough as Henry received new robotic limbs and instructions from the lovely Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train). The make-up effects and CGI were impressive.

The whole thing felt like it had been taken straight out of a video game. The hum drum clunky dialogue between the scientists made me laugh. The gamer nerd in me smiling from ear to ear.

The only problem was that these are the sort of sequences I frantically press any button on the controller to skip.

BUT it didn’t mess about. Quickly establishing the premise and throwing us straight into the chaos by the 15 minute marker. Some guff about bio-engineered soldiers and Henry being the only one who can stop them. Blah, blah, blah.

Danila Kozlovksy (Vampire Academy)’s Akan looked like something out of Devil May Cry. The blond hair. The creepy demeanour.

His camp panto performance shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. BUT he was the perfect villain for this piece. Lapping it up and delivering one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while: “If I took this moment and put it in a cup of tea, I wouldn’t need any sugar”. Brilliant.

However, there was one man that stole the show. And sorry Henry, it wasn’t you.

Sharlto Copley (District 9), take a bow! I can’t tell if his turn was a master stroke or just plain bloody awful. Either way it was funny as hell. He was brilliant as Jimmy, Henry’s partner-in-crime.

Constantly popping up between each violent encounter as an even more ridiculous avatar. Be it an uptight colonel, a pot smoking hippie, a Sinatra crooner or a camouflaged hedge (Yep. You read that right).

What a ride! The action set-pieces and chase sequences were relentless as Henry jumped off moving cars, buildings and clocking up the body count in a number of brutally violent ways.

At one point, out hero strangles a dude with his own robotic eye socket! WTF! All aided by a cracking soundtrack. A mish-mesh of Russian techno and 80s synth pop.

The first person POV perspective was fun. The only problem was that as the action got more chaotic, the more disoriented I felt. The shaki-cam drew flashbacks to my first viewing of Cloverfield. Didn’t think I could get vertigo watching a film. Sheesh.

You could tell this was written by a gamer fan boy. The riotous brothel shoot-em-up was ridiculous. Especially when Jimmy upset some attractive katana-bearing ninja dominatrix assassins. I’m not making this up, I swear!

What helped was that writer/director Ilya Naishuller didn’t take this too seriously. It was fun for all the wrong reasons BUT done in the right way. I laughed at the chaotic conversations between the Russians as they kicked off, throwing the subtitles into one big illiterate mess!

The only problem was that as it drew to its stupendous finale, I felt exhausted. The carnage cranking up to 11 as a mangled Kill Bill/A Clockwork Orange homage-inspired showdown took the biscuit. Seriously, at one point, Henry was climbing up bodies suspended in mid-air.

I knew it wasn’t going to win merits for plausibility BUT it really bugged me that Akan was the only one with telekinetic abilities. Why? Something to do with the bio-engineering, I guess.

However, it all spiralled into one big bloody mess that ended rather abruptly. BUT by that point, I didn’t care. After the random cameos, I expected Henry’s big reveal to be somebody . . . big. No disrespect to Andrei Dementiov.

If you’re up for a frantic no-holds barred action bloodfest to kill 90 minutes, then look no further. Otherwise steer clear.

2.5/5

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SPY REVIEW

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I Spy a surprisingly entertaining comedy.

A desk-bound CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer (Rose Byrne), and prevent diabolical global disaster.

McCarthy takes on the spy genre and it’s everything you could expect. If you’re a fan, that is.

I love McCarthy. The Heat was one of the funniest films I’ve seen in quite some time. BUT then she made Tammy. A major step backwards. When I first saw trailers for Spy, I feared the worst.

And as the opening sequence began, my anxieties were justified. Jude Law’s Bond doppelganger Bradley Fine (Nicely done) was certainly entertaining enough. Delivering the naff punch lines with a cheeky wink.

McCarthy’s analyst commentary was a little flat. Her swooning over Fine was a little bland for my liking. And when their room was infiltrated by a swarm of bats from the ventilation shaft, I could feel my hopes fading fast. Not even Miranda Hart was doing it for me. (Comedically speaking. Oh, grow up).

And the opening theme song was awful. Clearly a homage to the classic Bond movies BUT they could have made the song funny or done a proper one. A little weak. Sung well though.

BUT as soon McCarthy was brought into the fold, things got a lot better and a whole lot funnier. The supporting cast were a mixed bag in every which way.

I really thought Miranda Hart would be a lot more irritating. I loved the first series of her self-titled sitcom Miranda but she soon regurgitated the same old spiel for two more series and really killed off the buzz. She was excellent. I expected a lot more silly buffoonery and endless collapsing with the occasional faint spell. There was only one moment where she got carried away as a bodyguard.

Otherwise, she came out with some corkers and worked really well with McCarthy. The pair complimented each other perfectly. And Hart’s unexpected hook up with a celebrity rapper was the most random and funniest thing I’ve seen in some time. NO SPOILERS on the rapper but what a good sport.

Jason Statham. Where do I begin? I have never lost the faith with the Stath. If I was wearing a hat, I would take it off to the chap. It’s great when you get to that stage in your career that you can play a parody of yourself. He was hilarious. Imagine Jay from the Inbetweeners with spy status. His endless BS and bizarre stories that get crazier by the minute had me in stitches.

His endless attempts to swoop in and save the day and belittling put downs on McCarthy took things up a notch when the film seemed to get a little too bogged down with the story. He was like a Crank-ed up Clousseau. A completely different side to the British bad ass.

Rose Byre looked stunning (if a little thin) as the villainous Rayna Boyanov. Even with a strange bee hive on her head. Cue endless one liners from McCarthy on that one. Her put downs with Byrne were great. “Did your father get you to dress like a slutty dolphin instructor?”.

McCarthy’s reactions and improvised banter got a lot more laughs than I expected. Sometimes when she is let loose, it can be very hit and miss. Most notably when she tries to play the tough guy. BUT her confrontation with a Swedish contact reduced him to tears and me. Fantastic.

There were so many set pieces. And the stunts were not bad. If anything, they were relentless. Seriously, Paul Feig wasn’t afraid to throw some carnage in there. The pieces were made better by the fact that McCarthy was doing them.

Her normal woman spiel really worked for this film and balanced the ludicrous humour and mad set pieces. When she tries to jump into a scooter and tumbles over, it shouldn’t have worked as much as it did but I was in stitches. “Why do you have a roof on these things? Who do you think you are? The Pope!”

I couldn’t believe that a certain Ukrainian dance group that featured in Eurovision a few years back made an appearance during a Parisian gig sequence. No spoilers. *Cough* DANZEN! *Cough*

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) was great as the eccentric Italian contact, Aldo. His infatuation and sexual advances on McCarthy’s Susan. Words escape me.

However, there were a few things that let the side down.

Morena Baccarin (Homeland) was reduced to a nothingy role. Merely the spy candy that Hart and McCarthy despise. She didn’t look even that great and her character was highly unmemorable.

Bobby Cannavale managed to make more of a impression with his weak Bond villain in the fiery finale. For most of the film, he was non-existent. His mincing about in a pursuit chase did get a chuckle.

Alison Janney’s hard ass CIA boss role was so bland. It only worked because she would pass McCarthy’s new identities. Seriously every one brought a smile.

The story was weak. The whole double crossing/triple crossing spiel was predictable. It may have happily poked fun at the endless spy plots from yonder years but it wasn’t really that interesting and slackened the pace and killed the jokes.

It was OTT, manic, random BUT funny which covered the dud gags (which there weren’t a lot) and to be honest, those two hours flew by and I came out smiling.

Mission Accomplished, Ms McCarthy

3.5/5 (Just)

CHAPPIE REVIEW

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This didn’t make me a happy chappie.

BUT it wasn’t all bad.

Chappie is basically a What If film.

What if Johnny Five was alive and hanging around in a South African ghetto with Die Antwoord?

Your reaction to that statement will probably be the one you have when you see it.

For me, it was a return to form (of sorts) for Neill Blomkamp.

After the drab affair that was Elysium, I feared the worst for Blomkamp. Especially after rewarding us with such a promising debut and sleeper hit, District 9.

I’m still waiting for them to return, Mr Blomkamp!

So what’s it all about? In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

Hardly original. BUT for the first 30 minutes, I was switched on and hooked.

The inevitable talking head documentary intro that Blomkamp has grown accustomed to was unnecessary.

The quick introduction of the police bots and “Who’s Who?” kept things moving. Getting you straight into the thick of it.

The bots just reminded me of Robocop. Even their voices sounded like Peter Weller as they apprehended suspects. Granted, these upgrades were a lot more mobile.

The animation and special effects during the action sequences were fantastic.

BUT it’s not long before we’re introduced to a group of irritating street thugs and one unlucky police bot.

Die Antwoord? Where have you heard that name? They are responsible for the hit or travesty that was Enter The Ninja. Here’s a crash course for you.

Shudder.

It was a big risk to give a music act two of the more meatier roles. I respect Blomkamp for choosing South African talent BUT surely there were other contenders?

Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that one couldn’t act and the other’s character was so deluded and irritating, you were praying for Hugh’s Moose to crush him. (Wait, what? Steady now! I’ll get to that reference in two paragraphs).

The maternal moments between Chappie and Visser were done well but when it came to delivering any real lines with conviction, she fell short.

Ninja was such an unlikeable character. His deluded gangster ego was laughable. I’m sure that was Blomkamp’s intention but he was just so irritating. If he wasn’t yelling at Chappie, he was beating up Dev Patel.

Brandon Auret’s crime lord Hippo (A few animal names being thrown about) was ridiculous. It didn’t help that he was subtitled throughout the film. Even worse when you could understand every word the bloke was saying.

He played the nutter well enough. I think there was only one thug that deserved subtitling and that was because he was actually dipping in and out of English.

Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank) was good as the appropriately titled character American.

The idea that a sentient robot is being raised by surrogate parents in the form of a trio of dysfunctional street thugs is hilarious.

It certainly had some funny moments. BUT also some shocking ones. His lessons on the world were interesting and well executed. However, if you were expecting something more serious and intense, you may be left wanting.

Blomkamp uses recurring stalwart Copley to provide his vocal gravitas to the mechanical messiah. And he is brilliant.

Chappie’s design looked great and his expressions were incredible. It was just the little things that made it for me. The little matrix dots that form eyes on Chappie’s visors, his mismatching ears made up of various parts, the irritating bling around his neck.

I liked that he had to learn like he was a child. His cowering behind walls, watching He-Man and being read story books were nice little touches.

Dev Patel played the part of Chappie’s maker Deon well. It was just annoying when his character seemed to keep disappearing for good chunks of the film. Merely popping up to reiterate exposition or when everything seemed to kick off.

Sigourney Weaver isn’t looking too shabby at 65 and she played the corporate drone as well as she could. BUT all she did was pout and moan at either Deon or Vincent. A waste of a talented actress.

Bar one cracking line delivered with Weaver’s conviction (Burn it to ASH!), you realise by the closing credits that her character was pointless.

Hugh Jackman, uh, well. He did his best. BUT his character was such a tool (Putting it mildly) that I couldn’t take him seriously.

All he did was monologue. Providing a running commentary of everything he was doing while donning the Steve Irwin look. “Shall I execute this program? Yes, I will. What is he doing? Where is he going? I’m going to follow him”.

Alright, mate. Inside voice, yeah?

He was so comical. It was cringeworthy. I was more afraid of his robo counterpart. The Moose. It was ED-209. Only it could fly and shoot missiles. So stairs won’t be a problem any more.

It’s racy, action packed, funny and the closing moments certainly surprised and disappointed at the same time.

In typical Blomkamp fashion, the ending leaves things a little . . .

District fans will know where I’m heading with this. If you don’t, I’m not going to spoil it. Some clever little twists certainly surprised me BUT it still came to an abrupt end.

The problem that Elysium had was that it was too serious. Chappie was too comical and at times for the wrong reasons. District 9 had that balance perfectly.

This hasn’t put me off the rumoured Alien reboot that Blomkamp is supposed to be directing.

If you’re expecting super serious bot on bot action, I recommend Terminator or Robocop. But if you’ve read my review and are still intrigued, then give it a go. It ain’t all bad.

3/5