LOCKE is a new movie starring Tom Hardy. Written and directed by Steven Knight (HUMMINGBIRD, screenwriter of EASTERN PROMISES and DIRTY PRETTY THINGS), it is a bit of an experiment. The film practically unfolds in real time as we follow a construction foreman en route to a hospital in London. So it is set entirely in his car. Any additional characters are made up of the voices emanating from the car’s built-in speaker phone. It is through this time spent (and via the conversations he has with other characters) we are able to piece together a narrative involving one man’s compulsion to be present at the birth of his child, which came about from a misjudged, one night stand occurrence during a past business trip.
And that could be the least of his problems.
Compounding the issue, he is forced to leave in the middle of one of the biggest jobs of his career thus possibly enabling his own unemployment. And to make matters even worse, he is already married and the father of a young son.
So it is safe to say Tom Hardy’s Locke has a lot on his plate. And it is inferred that the new born wasn’t due to arrive until a couple of months later. But the mother’s water broke unexpectedly and there is concern that a complication could result. Even though Locke doesn’t know this woman very well, he is motivated by a self righteous desire to drop everything and be there for her. Which may have something to do with the psychological scars he carries from dealing with his own absentee father.
Again, all of this is communicated during the course of Locke’s drive. So LOCKE the movie has the feel of a theatrical, one man show. And sometimes has the dialogue to match. The script gets awfully wordy and somewhat overly stagey. It comes off as stage dialogue rather than film. And this is not helped by the occasional dips into monologues conveyed by the lead. No, he does not break the fourth wall and address the audience when he does this. Instead, his monologues are justified as an in-his-head conversation with his father. But it still distances you as a viewer. You are not given any impression by the director or writer that this is intended to be stylized in the way, say, Shakespeare’s words may appear if used in a contemporary film. Because it doesn’t feel natural. And this isn’t helped by Hardy’s clipped reading of the text. Oftentimes, it comes off as too much “acting.”
But I do like the idea of LOCKE. And there are moments when Hardy can be very, very good. And you do understand how Knight is trying to complete this picture of the psychological make up of a man under restrictive circumstances. We get that Locke is a control freak, for example. And prides himself in his problem solving skills. And how this prompts his denial as to whether he can provide solutions to the situation regarding his new born child, the seemingly unstable mother, his family’s reaction to all this and the effect this will have on his career. Hardy is at his best when portraying the outwardly cool moments while hinting at the turmoil within. But the finer moments are upset by the more melodramatic ones and because of that the film feels uneven.
(Hardy also insists on using what sounds like a Welsh accent. Even though Hardy isn’t Welsh. Nor are any of the other characters whose voices we hear on his phone. It’s an odd acting choice that is never explained. Kind of like if the whole movie was set in the US, with the main character taking a two-hour drive to New York City. During which everyone he speaks with use New Jersey accents while he is speaking like a Texan.)
The film is not without its moments of humor, especially when it comes to the frustrated conversations Locke has with his right hand man tending the site. And the disembodied cast do alright with their vocal work (provided by Olivia Coleman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott and Ben Daniels among others). But what is most strange about LOCKE is how, even though Steven Knight attempts to pile on enough challenges to be dealt with by his protagonist, the conflict and/or challenges seem to peter out at the end. Thus resulting in a film that paradoxically feels challenge free. I am all for open endings, ambiguity and what have you. But LOCKE concludes in a way that seems to let its lead off too easy. Which is odd for a film that was so invested in building up road block after road block. And of course I mean that figuratively. Because the drive itself turns out to be completely traffic free. Much like LOCKE itself.
LOCKE opens to limited release across the USA starting Friday, April 25th.