Take a Drink: each time a person calls
Take a Drink: during each yelling scene
Do a Shot: each time he uses a kleenex
Take a Drink: for every twist and turn
By: Matt Conway (Three Beers) –
Within a little more than a year, new studio A24 has developed into one of the biggest names in independent cinema. Last year with projects like Spring Breakers, Bling Ring, and The Spectacular Now, the upcoming studio not only found quite a bit of box office success, but also largely favorable reviews. Such success has continued this year, with films like Obvious Child, Enemy, and The Rover being some of the better films of the year. In their short tenure, A24 has shown a penchant for unique and inventive indies.
Perhaps their most out of the box film yet is Locke. The concept of this being a one camera film set entirely inside a car ride is certainly an interesting idea, and putting a great actor like Tom Hardy in the center of that certainly gives the idea a great deal more promise. It seemed like the film was a big hit with most people, with it being one of the best reviewed films of the year so far. Personally, though, Locke is a fair film that has its fair share of problems.
Successful family man Ivan Locke’s job and lifestyle is put at risk when he receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest day in his career.
Carrying this film on his shoulders is Tom Hardy, who is as incredible as always. Hardy, who has made a career playing big, boisterous characters like in Bronson and The Dark Knight Rises, gives perhaps his most subdued performance. Not only is it his most subdued, but it is perhaps Hardy’s best performance. Hardy is asked to carry this film on his shoulders as he is the only actor on screen, and is able to disappear into his character and carry the film.
A lot of credit also has to be given to director Steven Knight. Knight, who last directed the disappointing Redemption, really proves his skill this time behind the camera. Knight does a nice job of letting the story and characters speak for themselves, keeping the action of the film inside the car. Instead of adding too many stylistic touches to overcompensate, Knight also does a nice job of diversifying the imagery with some overhead and traffic shots. He keeps the film going at a nice clip, which is a skill considering its premise.
Credit also has to go to Knight as the script-writer, for creating a film that is unlike any other. The concept of a man being in a car for a whole film is a ballsy one for sure, and it’s an exercise that is thought-provoking to watch throughout its running time. It’s original ideas like this that get people excited about film again. However, this is where some of the film’s issues creep up.
To me, Locke feels like an exercise in style that lacks the substance to make it really come together perfectly. From a visual perspective, Locke has all of the aspects that are needed to make a great film. Yet, the film is often lacking dramatically in comparison, with there not being very much dramatic weight built up throughout the film. This makes the action throughout the film less involving than it could have been.
In a lot of ways, Locke is also hindered by its lack of evolution. From the start of the film to the finish, very little about Ivan Locke has changed, despite everything in his life seemingly falling apart. If a person was to go through such a tough situation, it would not be surprising for them to change in some way, an aspect that Ivan’s character was seemingly missing. Not that he would become a drastically different person, but it seems like Locke’s persona does not change one bit throughout the film.
Perhaps the biggest blunder for me was the character of Ivan Locke himself. Knight’s script does a great job of keeping the action moving throughout, but fails to ever build up the center of all this chaos. Ivan is just a simple business and family man trying to do what he views as the right ethical decision; outside of that, there is very little character to latch onto. Getting to know more about Ivan and his real perspective on the events around him would really have helped in strengthening the film’s dramatic core.
Locke features four conversations throughout the film, and one of these conversations that just does not come together is the dialogue with his father. Not to spoil the film, but these conversations with his father just seem out of place. Their intentions are obvious from the start, and if done well could have added some much needed back-story to Ivan’s character. Unfortunately, these moments are used sparingly throughout the film, with the inconsistent use making it hard to really care about.
Locke is a film that is dedicated, maybe to a fault, to its stylistic choices. Thanks in large part to the acting prowess of Tom Hardy and some solid direction, Locke is ultimately able to overcome some of its major issues to come together as a disappointingly workmanlike flick.