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Friday, May 23, 2014

Locke Review: Bold Vision That Becomes Irritatingly Predictable

After a strong start, Locke becomes irritatingly predictable.

We here at SJF are privileged to see so many mainstream films on an annual basis that when we get an actual arthouse, our pulse tends to quicken. Sometimes smaller productions, free of the harsh eye of studio execs, can yield wonderful fruit. Unfortunately, the one-man Locke doesn't satiate our appetite in the least, even though it's an interesting theoretical exercise.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is facing a life's crossroads of conflicting priorities. A successful foreman whose fastidious nature has made him a success in office building construction, Ivan is pulled away from the largest concrete pour in England when he learns that his mistress is about to give birth in nearby London. As he speeds to her side, Ivan answers a series of phone calls from his livid boss (voiced by Ben Daniels), his soon-to-be ex (voiced by Ruth Wilson), and the expectant mother (voiced by Olivia Coleman). Ivan's 90-minute drive will see the carefully-cultivated details of his life disappear, while admitting to everyone that his mistress is "no oil panting."

And that is where Locke loses us. Actors need continuing moments of conflict to boost their performance, when the outer world tussles with their inner self. Locke is utterly devoid of that - we know exactly how Ivan will respond to this pressure cooker, and it isn't exactly brilliant: lose the wife, lose the job, shack up with the ugly chick. It quickly loses our attention, languishing in a cycle of repetition and predictability. Its message - that one bad decision can ruin even the best of us - is pounded into our skulls with such frequency that by the time it's done we're numb to Ivan's situation. Frankly, we begin to wish badly for him, hoping that something will force a new layer to his situation and take him out of an early rut. But that moment never arrives, leaving the audience with a sense of emptiness that's akin to holding a literary bag.

That's not a healthy emotion to feel while watching any film, even though Hardy does his best to minimize the damage. He's an exceptional actor, making the audience both appreciate Ivan Locke's precise nature while detesting that he's made such an unforgivable mistake. Hardy doesn't inhabit the role, but it's clear that Writer/Director Steven Knight doesn't use Hardy as effectively as he could. Once the various plots of the story are quickly exposed, Ivan doesn't do much more than take a series of increasingly frustrating phone calls that offer nothing new and therefore give nothing new for Hardy to do. He's soon relegated to the role of an office secretary on the day his boss makes an unprofessional statement and then follows it up with an 'apology' that creates further problems. The PR disaster doesn't play out well here, not that Locke has any choice in the matter - or perhaps he does - but by the end, we couldn't care less either way.

Locke is the greatest exercise in minimalism we've seen in years, and yet it collapses early on from the clunky phone dialogue and lack of conflict. And while we love the arthouse feel, Locke gives us little desire to celebrate a good performance wrapped up in a boring and implausible script.

Locke is rated R for language and has a runtime of 85 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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