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locke photoI’ve been careful about using the phrase “I could watch [insert actor here] read a phone book and be entertained.”

We’ve all seen movies with just one actor. Last year it was Robert Redford trapped on a boat. Tom Hanks was stranded on an island. Colin Farrell – a phone booth. Ryan Reynolds – a casket. And now Tom Hardy – an amazing actor that blew me away in Bronson (another movie title with just the persons last name), trapped in a car.

Hardy is driving his BMW the entire time, proving something I’ve said for years. That you CAN drive and talk on the phone at the same time. This guy not only does that, but he looks at files, grabs phone numbers, helps pour cement, juggles women…it’s a thing of beauty. No, not the movie. The fact that he can do all those things and not drive off a bridge.

We learn a lot about Ivan Locke as he drives all night and his predicament unravels in front of us.

(the following has a few minor SPOILER ALERTS, but every review about this film will have the same ones)

Locke is a family man that planned on making it home to watch soccer with his family. His wife bought the sausages he likes, and the kids are waiting. But he has the biggest job of his 10-year career with a cement company. It’s the biggest pour in the history of Europe. Roads need to be closed, shipments checked on, etc. Yet he isn’t staying at the job site. He’s driving to meet a woman in the hospital. They had a one-night stand and she’s having a baby. Since he had a father that wasn’t there (which we learn about through a series of bizarre conversations he has with the empty back seat of his car). He wants to do the right thing. I’m just not sure why he thought doing the right thing involved telling his wife all this (and on the phone).  For a guy that’s so successful and smart, it’s odd that he is making the decisions he is.

The film might have been an interesting stage play. As a movie, although it’s shot well entirely from the constraints of a car, it just runs out of gas half way through the journey.

Initially you’re sucked in by Locke’s low voice and slight Welsh accent. After the third time he says, in a slightly patronizing tone, “It’ll be alright” or “I have made my decision,” and the most said phrase in the movie — “I will be there soon, traffic is good”… I wanted to scream. It all came across like an acting exercise. I can imagine a teacher telling one student to “Pretend you’re a tree” and another being told to, “Pretend you’re in a car, and might get fired from your job and lose your family…just act with your face.”

It doesn’t help matters that Hardy hardly illicit sympathy for this characters plight.

There are a few interesting moments. Hearing some soliloquies about his dead-beat dad, or wanting to assure his son things we’ll be alright, are among those moments.

Filmmaker Steven Knight (who gave us the interest Eastern Promises) did this 85 minute movie in real time. That didn’t work for many in the crowd. One woman in front of me got up and left 25 minutes in. Another couple left after an hour. Many other couples engaged in their own conversations as they grew restless. It was like the adult version of the kids in the backseat asking, “Are we there yet?”

It’s weird, because if this were a movie with car chases and gun shots, I’d be complaining. Instead of Tom Cruise fighting bad guys, it’s Tom Hardy, using just his words on a car phone. The minimalist style is done well. It’s the clunky dialogue that often derails things. The obvious metaphors and expository storytelling just didn’t work. It all became an uneven affair.

You’ll learn more about pouring concrete than you could imagine. I’d like to take this script and pour concrete on it, and toss it into the Thames.

The decent, understated performance by Hardy ultimately can’t keep this thing from sinking.

1 ½ stars out of 5.

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