Original Motion Picture Soundtracks... hmmm... they can be a strange beast. Sometimes, a mere cash-in on the box office success of a Hollywood blockbuster, with little integrity or attachment to the movie you might've already seen. All too often, they adhere to a seemingly arbitrary collection of songs and, the worst offenders, are those soundtracks that carry the tag "songs inspired by...". This soundtrack for 'Hardcore Henry', I'm pleased to report, is one of the better ones. However, the collection of music here is such a stylistically eclectic mix across decades of artists, that I guess it's only of any real value for people who've actually seen the movie and are able to relate the songs to pivotal narrative moments; an aid to recalling crazy montages from the film in their mind's eye.
A little about the movie, first. While a number of pretentious critics' reviews have (unfairly) panned 'Hardcore Henry' for something it's not attempting to be, it seems to be garnering all kinds of positive viewer responses. And justifiably so. While not subversive per se, it's both genre-defining and genre-defying; offering a unique and exhilarating take on the erstwhile stale protagonist-driven science-fiction/action movie paradigm by filming everything from the point-of-view of the film's titular character. It's an intelligent and flawlessly executed reinvention that raises interesting questions around who exactly is the protagonist of the film. The viewer, because it's all first-person POV? Henry, because it's his POV? In either case, it makes for intriguing casting when the protagonist isn't the movie's top-billed star... that's Sharlto Copley, in a magnificently realised series of heterogeneous incarnations of the same man, Jimmy, that allow him to showcase the wide range of his acting talents. A career-best performance, I would argue. I won't dwell on plot details (and, yes, there is a plot; a great one at that, complete with an unexpected twist in the final act), but suffice to say that strap yourselves into your theatre chair and enjoy one hell of an adrenaline-fuelled cinematic rollercoaster ride. Oh, and the stunt work is Oscar worthy. Completely deranged!
Anyway, onto the soundtrack. Eclecticism is the key here and, while not all songs might be immediately axiomatic choices for a movie of this ilk, they're well-selected and relate, at least, lyrically to the action that unfolds on the screen. Kind of akin to Tarantino's use of music, I would say. A few key moments of dialogue lifted directly from the film are interposed between the songs throughout, so that gives some semblance of narrative continuity while listening to the soundtrack from start to finish. However, the chronology of songs isn't entirely correct as opening track is Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', which appears towards the end of the movie in one of 'Hardcore Henry's climactically frantic action sequences. And, cinema-wise, I'm not sure anyone will ever be able to better appropriation of this track post-'Shaun of the Dead'. It'll be forever associated with darts and pool cue violence in the Winchester, for me!
Chronology issues aside, the eclecticism works well as a means to sonically relive the different moods engendered by the movie. Indie pop of The Drums sits neatly alongside the 60s soul/R&B of The Temptations, 80s new wave courtesy of The Stranglers, the unhinged electronica of Macro/Micro, and the folk-rock of Peter Wolf Crier. Then there's writer/director Ilya Naishuller’s very own indie/punk rock band Biting Elbows with no less than three songs, as well as the film's main composer, Dasha Charusha, who's also represented here by '16', a slice of classical-infused pop (notably, she also makes an appearance in the movie as Katya the Dominatrix). All in all, I'd certainly recommend 'Hardcore Henry: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'... but only for those of you who've seen the film. This turned up for review a short while before my viewing, made little sense, although post-movie, is contextualised perfectly and provides the perfect sonic accompaniment to what is one of the most frantically deranged films this century, thus far.
Sony Music Masterworks
HARDCORE HENRY: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
Review by Mark Holmes
15th April 2016
1) Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen); 2) Let Me Down Easy (The Stranglers); 3) My Girl (The Temptations); 4) Down By the Water (The Drums); 5) This is Fuckin' War, Baby; 6) Strychnine (The Sonics); 7) 16 (Dasha Charusha); 8) My Woman (Biting Elbows); 9)100,000 Baseball Bats; 10) Für Hildegard von Bingen (Devendra Banhart); 11) Under My Skin (Sharlto Copley); 12) Dustbus (Biting Elbows); 13) Na Zare (Alyans); 14) It's Bloody Nice Having a Friend; 15) Hard as Nails (Peter Wolf Crier); 16) Caustic (Macro/micro); 17) Won't You Come Over (Devendra Banhart); 18) You Little Pussy; 19) For the Kill (Biting Elbows)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...the perfect sonic accompaniment to what is one of the most frantically deranged films this century..."