Locke: A gimmick that works 

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Construction expert Ivan Locke, played by Tom Hardy, is on the M6 motorway, soon to merge onto the M1 as he drives his BMW from Birmingham to London. Aside from a brief glimpse of a truck driver, his is the only face we'll see in the roughly 84-minute story. Locke intended to spend the evening at home with his wife (Ruth Wilson), watching a soccer match with his two boys (Tom Holland and Bill Milner) before preparing for a very important concrete pour in the morning. Instead, he is on the road, risking his marriage and his job, because he has determined that this is what he has to do.

Locke is riveting. The notion of spending a whole movie in a car with a guy talking to people on the phone may sound like a gimmick. Okay, it IS a gimmick. What matters, though, is that it works. The film puts you in the shoes of someone else and allows you to see life from his perspective, guided by his value system. The acting is impeccable. The screenplay is a doozy, despite a couple of quibbles that I'll address in a bit.

Writer-director Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things) has crafted a film that is suspenseful and involving without guns, villains, chase scenes or monsters. He has a remarkable knack for showcasing the extraordinary facets of objects and activities we take for granted. When you finish watching the movie, consider the discussions of the big concrete pour Locke has with his boss (Ben Daniels) and flustered subordinate (Andrew Scott). Sure, the exchanges between the men are fascinating, but the details about how concrete works are pretty interesting too.

The versatile Tom Hardy and the unseen supporting cast brings the ace screenplay to life. Hardy, so volatile in The Dark Knight Rises and Warrior, is more restrained here. Locke is a passionate man, certainly, and he has a notable righteous streak, but he prides himself in being a gentleman. That is especially important to him on this night. He made a huge mistake months ago, and as a result, a coworker (Olivia Colman) is about to bear his child. Despite the risk to his marriage and job, the trip to London is essential if he is to have a chance at being the man he believes he should be.

Which brings me to the quibbles. To make Locke's motivations crystal clear, Knight includes scenes of the character railing at his late father. Hardy makes the moments credible, but I wish Knight had given us the information in a less theatrical fashion, perhaps during one of the phone calls between Locke and his wife. My other complaint comes late in the film, when Locke and one of his boys discuss the soccer match. Everything they say parallels Locke's situation and the conversation feels obvious and excessive. Steven Knight is too effective a writer to require a highlighter scene.

Enough of that. Locke is a great looking and sounding tale of a man's (misguided?) quest to do the right thing. In addition to the moral issues and the character study, it features fun facts about concrete. You should see this.


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Neighbors ★★★ A married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a baby get new neighbors - an Animal House fraternity led by two smooth talkers (Zac Efron and Dave Franco). The couple tries to be cool, smoking weed with the boys to show they're hip. But relations turn south quickly, leading to warfare between the houses. When the rude, crude R-rated comedy is funny, it's very funny. The segments in-between are interesting, but the film wasn't as balls-to-the-wall crazy as I'd hoped it would be. I suspect, though, that this is one of those comedies that will seem funnier with repeated viewings. Rogen, Byrne, Efron and Franco are excellent, by the way.

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Moms' Night Out ★ The wives go out and everything goes ker-ay-zee in this crappy Christian comedy (the "crappy" refers to the comedy, not Christians). Sarah Drew plays the main easily-flustered mother and Sean Astin plays the father who is afraid of watching his own kids. You want to spend time with these people? No you don't. The movie is not funny, not even a little, and it's pretty chintzy looking to boot.


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What others are saying (6)

Memphis Flyer A Review of Locke Stephen Knight’s surprisingly rich one-man movie. by Chris McCoy 05/22/2014
3 more reviews...
East Bay Express Locke Quitting time. by Kelly Vance 05/07/2014
Inlander Go For a Drive Tom Hardy makes Locke a smash without ever getting out of the car by Kimberley Jones 05/21/2014
Portland Mercury Claustrophobia Locked in a car with Locke. by Marjorie Skinner 05/14/2014

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