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Review: ‘Locke’ is Tom Hardy’s One-Man Show

Tom Hardy commands the screen singlehandedly as the title character

Credit: IM Global

Above: Tom Hardy commands the screen singlehandedly as the title character "Locke."

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews 'Locke.'


As Hollywood strives to open up films and make them bigger and flashier, the new film "Locke" (opening May 9 at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas) does the exact opposite and kicks ass.

Forget CGI. The only special effect you need is the mad skills of actor Tom Hardy. He terrorized a British prison in "Bronson," menaced Gotham as Bane in "Dark Knight Rises," and beat opponents to a bloody pulp in "Warrior." Now he proves just as hypnotic displaying a subtler skill set in Locke, where he essentially spends 85 minutes alone in a car with the audience.

Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man whose very careful plans for a responsible life start to unravel with one phone call. The unexpected fallout of a one-night stand prompts him to drop everything, hit the road, and then try to make things right through a long night of phone calls to his wife, kids, and employees.

Companion Viewing

"The Human Voice" (1966)

"Sleuth" (1972)

"Secret Honor" (1984)

"Bronson" (2009)

Commanding the screen singlehandedly, Hardy delivers a quiet yet thoroughly riveting performance. In a post-film simulcast Q&A after a special screening, he talked about how the film was shot like a stage play. He would get in the car and head out. and the director and other actors that we hear only on the phone would call in for their scenes. Essentially, it was like a single take and they could only run through the film once in an evening. Hardy also spoke about his choice of a Welsh accent, saying that men like Welsh actors Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton came across as very tough and strong but with gentle voices that had a soothing effect. Hardy said he wanted that pleasant, soothing sound to convey a calmness and resolve in his character, and it works beautifully.

Director Steven Knight, however, doesn’t seem trust Hardy’s talent and ends up over cutting the film in an attempt to manufacture tension. But Knight doesn’t need gimmicks when he has all he needs in the landscape of Hardy’s face and the modulated nuance of his voice. The script requires a couple leaps of faith (the wife and the woman from the one-night stand both behave in an occasionally unconvincing manner just so the plot can move forward the way Knight wants it to. But you only notice the shortcomings after you leave the theater because while Hardy is onscreen you believe everything that's happening.

"Locke" (rated R for language throughout) may not be your idea of cinema but it serves up acting at its very finest.

Here's the trailer, which like Knight's over-editing, uses more gimmicks than necessary to try and sell the film. But anyone who knows Hardy, doesn't need any convincing.

Trailer: 'Locke'

And just to show his range, check out his in your face performance as the title character of "Bronson," not a one man-show but you may remember it that way.

Trailer: Bronson

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