Netflix Review – John Henry: I Wasn’t Hammered Enough to Watch This

Terry Crews and Ludacris appear in this tale of redemption, but it doesn’t end up satisfying.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

John Henry (Terry Crews) is a former member of a Los Angeles gang run by his cousin, Hell (Ludacris). John Henry is now a pacifist living with his father BJ (Ken Foree) and he ends up getting dragged back into a conflict because he agrees to try and help Berta (Jamila Vasquez) and her brother Emilio (Joseph Julian Soria) escape from Hell’s human trafficking. There is a hammer, and it smashes things.

JohnHenry - 1Hammer
Terry Crews is definitely great casting to play John Henry, but not this one.

END SUMMARY

I really wish that I liked this movie because two actors I love are Terry Crews and Ken Foree, and Ludacris is always pretty fun in the The Fast and the Furious movies. Unfortunately, this movie was not well constructed, which ended up completely wasting most of the talent that was present. 

JohnHenry - 2Cast
And I loved her on Empire.

A big problem with the movie is that it tries to be way too cute with its soundtrack, combining Spaghetti Western orchestrals, rap music, and what I think is Flamenco, but I’m not good at musical genres, so I could be wrong. When musical genres are mixed well in a film, they can be amazing at highlighting the similarities of cultures, but here, they seem to just clash with what’s happening on screen. It doesn’t help that most of the music is so generic that the subtitles actually said “uplifting Western music” at multiple points. 

JohnHenry - 3Walk
“Slow Walk Western Music”

Another problem with the film is that there’s not a lot of actual action nor is there a lot of plot. The film tries to have some Tarantino-esque dialogue scenes that unfortunately remind me of why it’s so hard to make those scenes work if you’re not as talented at crafting character interactions as Quentin Tarantino. It also doesn’t help that most of the characters that have these dialogue scenes tend to punctuate them by dying, rendering any character development completely moot. The fact that the only one which I can really remember is a short one by Ken Foree about the fact that he lost the use of his legendary genitals to a stroke also speaks to the fact that they’re not particularly powerful scenes to begin with. 

JohnHenry - 4KenForee
He killed Zombies, he’ll kill you too.

Ludacris’s character suffers from the issue that he’s just not that threatening. He tries to come off as intimidating by using a blowtorch as his torture weapon of choice, but he also has the misfortune of having a literal gold and diamond crusted jaw on one side. It’s from an injury, but it looks less “threatening” and more “ridiculous.” It doesn’t help that his dialogue suffers from the same fault, sounding the kind of insane that holds a sign on a street corner about 5G Coronavirus than the kind of insane that eats your liver with fava beans and a nice chianti. 

JohnHenry - 5Ludacris
Seriously, you cannot intimidate me when you have that on your face. 

The best parts of the movie are Terry Crews and Ken Foree, although the movie often plays against Terry Crews’ strong points. John Henry is supposed to be a pacifist, but it seems more often that Crews was given the direction of “unemotional.” He mourns a dog at one point, but his sadness is the wrong kind of reserved, instead coming off as insincere. Since I’ve seen Terry Crews do this better on multiple occasions, I have to blame the film itself. Ken Foree, on the other hand, is probably the most memorable part of the movie. He’s a wheelchair bound wisecracking former-badass and even when he’s saying something stupid, it works from him. 

JohnHenry - 6Hammer
Also, let Terry Crews be funny. It works for him. Even a badass can be funny.

Overall, though, this movie just doesn’t have enough going for it. It either needed more action, more humor, better direction, or better dialogue… or maybe literally all of that. It just didn’t feel interesting, which is hard to believe for a movie where a guy smashes people in the face with a sledgehammer. It may not deserve the 0% it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes, but it definitely doesn’t live up to the tall tale that inspired its name.

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