Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Steven Knight
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy, Voices of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, Bill Milner
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 4/17/14
Opens: April 25, 2014
There is a reason that telephoning while driving is illegal in many parts, but Steven Knight, who wrote and directs “Locke,” finds that the chance of causing an accident is strictly peripheral. “Locke” stars Tom Hardy as the title character, a study in cinematic minimalism that finds Hardy in a one-man show. This is the sort of presentation that might work if you have a brilliant writer like Samuel Beckett dealing with a script that finds Krapp looking back at tapes made years back when he was idealistic, laughing at himself when comparing those years to the present. But Knight’s script is banal, leaving Tom Hardy’s performance as the only thing that can save this film. English-born Hardy affects a delightful Welsh accent, without which the film might have been intolerable. Given, though, that the entire action takes place in Locke’s BMW using a Red Epic camera to make the audience wonder at how the whole enterprise could be filmed, one might expect “Locke” to be more at home on the legitimate stage. But then again, when you can find better scripts at the local pharmacy, what’s the point?
As the lone character drives from his home town of Birmingham to London, he speaks to a number of people (including the ghost of his dead father in the back seat) who call him, though quite a few calls are initiated by him. He is considered a tough manager of building projects and is now making final preparations for the pouring of concrete for a new skyscraper, an effort involving an army of 218 trucks due the following morning. He shows his managerial expertise when, having been told of an upcoming stop order by the city council, he frantically but skilfully finds the number of a political contact that can overturn the ban so that the project can start on time.
But Locke made one mistake that threatens him with the loss of his family and his job. Because of a one-night stand with a 43-year-old woman who is “no oil painting,” the woman, Bethan (Olivia Colman) is about to give birth by C-section in Birmingham, and Locke insists on being there hopefully in time for the delivery—hence the nocturnal drive. He confesses (again by phone) to his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) about his judgment error, excusing himself by stating that he cares not for this woman nor does he pretend he can love her in return. No good. Katrina says that there is quite a difference between “once” and “never,” which means that Locke must vacate his home, leaving his teen sons Eddie (Tom Holland) and Sean (Bill Miner) to be cared for by his wife. What’s more, because of his drive to London, he has been fired from his job, though, being a perfectionist, he insists on being at the work site the following morning to preside over the pouring of concrete.
Locke talks too much, but what else could he do when he is the only performer on the screen? This monochrome, stripped-down film is an unusual one from Steven Knight, whose “Redemption” deals with a man homeless and on the run for military court martial, and whose script for “Dirty Pretty Things” focuses on an illegal Nigerian immigrant at a hotel that deals with drugs and prostitution. Other critics have called Hardy’s performance a tour-de-force, but I simply don’t see it.
Rated R. 85 minutes. © 2014 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C
Acting – B-
Technical – B
Overall – C