Tag Archives: Tom Hardy

Film Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

During grotesque warlord Immortan Joe’s chase of Max, Furiosa et al, one of the many, many vehicles is fronted by a blind bloke in a red jumpsuit playing a double-necked guitar that spews fire. For no apparent reason. And that pretty much sums up the absurdity of Mad Max: Fury Road.

They say never go back, but that’s exactly what director George Miller has done and there’s absolutely no signs whatsoever of him mellowing with age. Incredibly light on dialogue and exposition, Fury Road opts for retina-burning action instead, rarely giving you chance to catch your breath before the heavy metal soundtrack erupts and away we go again.

You feel sweaty and grimy, covered in dirt, sand and oil just watching it, and it feels great.

Its several action set pieces are visceral, brutal and simply spectacular, stunningly choreographed into a dance of death across the dystopian wastelands. Whilst undeniably impressive, the non-stop action does become a bit one-note and the film would benefit greatly from just taking the odd breather and fleshing out its characters a little more. Max himself feels woefully underdeveloped, and just giving us that little extra glimpse into who he is would have been welcome.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa

One of the main reasons the films works as well as it does is the aesthetic created by Miller and his cinematographer John Seale. Many post-apocalyptic films tend to have a rather washed out colour pallette but Fury Road is drenched in colour which just adds to the ludicrousness of the whole thing. And then there’s the vehicles and the noise and the make-up and bonkers editing – you feel sweaty and grimy, covered in dirt, sand and oil just watching it, and it feels great.

Whilst claims that Fury Road is some kind of visionary feminist masterpiece are somewhat wide of the mark, the film does do plenty to puts its men and women on much more equal footing than most other films of similar ilk.

For most of the film, this is Furiosa’s story, not Max’s – whether you want that is up to you.

You don’t need to look much further than Charlize Theron’s apocalyptic Ellen Ripley, Imperator Furiosa (Furiosa Road?), and her relationship with Max for proof of this. Furiosa enjoys just as much screen time as Max and we learn much more about her than Max’s Silverback grunts and gesturing ever give away. For most of the film, this is her story, not his – whether you want that is up to you.

At times Max does feel a little sidelined and this does bring about some issues, not because he has the right to be front and centre at all times, but because here we have a main character that, often, you struggle to really become invested in. Those who have seen the original Mad Max films may fare better here, but for those new to the series, there’s a good chance you won’t actually care that much about Max.

Whilst Fury Road is hardly the modern day classic some are labelling it as, it’s hard to beat when it comes to adrenaline-fuelled, fire guitar-wielding action. Its sheer vision and extravagance are to be applauded, and whilst a little more plot/character development wouldn’t have gone amiss, it’s a tremendous way to hopefully kickstart a new era in the Mad Max franchise.

Pros

  • Amazing action set pieces
  • Strong female lead in Charlize Theron’s Furiosa
  • Wonderful aesthetic and lore

Cons

  • Becomes too action-heavy
  • Could have done with more character and plot development

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Locke

Locke

Construction site foreman Ivan Locke is on his way home from work when he makes a decision to go somewhere else instead, beginning a long journey that will alter his life and the lives of several others forever.

The entirety of Locke takes place in one location with a single character on screen the whole time. This isn’t a particularly revolutionary idea (see 2010’s Buried, for example), but it’s one that, if done well, can prove incredibly effective. However, if handled poorly it can ultimately feel gimmicky and cheap. Fortunately, Locke is very much the former.

We begin with Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke in the car as he presumably heads home after a day at work. However, he suddenly changes his mind and heads off somewhere else. Where? Well that’s part of the mystery. On the way he talks to various people on the phone as he tries to fix some particular problems in his life. Who’s he talking to? What are his problems? Again, all part of the mystery.

See, Locke is best approached knowing as little as possible. A huge part of the experience is being kept largely in the dark about exactly what’s going on and the eagerness to see how it unravels. Details are kept scarce, teased out as the minutes tick but bring up just as many questions as answers. This all makes the film incredibly tense; more so than you’d expect. All this, combined with the frenetic cinematography and score ensure that you’re always on the edge of your seat.

locke 2

When it comes to our central character, Ivan is a man to which many people will be able to relate. He has some major problems in his life, but ones that he seems determined to sort out and is someone who believes in doing the right thing, no matter the personal ramifications. We see the effects that even the smallest decisions can have, not just on Ivan but on those all around him, and all this is handled superbly by both director Steven Knight and Tom Hardy.

When a film has a single lead (Locke features a few secondary performances from people at the other end of a telephone) then its imperative you have a central performance to carry the film, and Hardy does so with aplomb. His slightly iffy Welsh accent aside, Hardy is masterful as Ivan; nearly always methodical and purposeful in his delivery, yet giving us glimpses of something slightly sinister and disturbing just under the surface. He makes it almost impossible to decide whether Ivan is a man we should like and trust and as such keeps us on edge the whole time.

Locke isn’t a film that everyone’s going to get along with. Despite it clocking in at under 90 minutes, some may find it a little too slow and devoid of action, especially if they’re expecting a more traditional thriller, which the film has often been billed as. The ending will also likely infuriate some, although if you understand what the film is trying to do then you’ll buy into it.

Whilst Locke could have turned into nothing more than a gimmick, it’s in fact a very accomplished piece of cinema. It’s not flashy or complicated, but the fact that’s kept simple is what works for it. As tense as any thriller and with a lead performance as impressive as most others you’ll see this year, Locke may be basic in premise but anything but in its execution.

 Pros

  • Superb central performance from Tom Hardy
  • Gripping and tense
  • Effective cinematography and score

Cons

  • Hardy’s dodgy Welsh accent
  • Some may find it unfulfilling

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Lawless

Seeing Tom Hardy crack someone with brass knuckles is a thing of brutal beauty. Sure, we may be getting used to him doing that kind of thing by now (after all, we’ve seen him as the sadistic Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, cage fighting machine Tommy Conlon in Warrior and the crazy Charles Bronson in, erm, Bronson over the past few years), but when someone’s good at something, it’s often best to just let them get on with it.

The Bondurant brothers

In Lawless, Hardy plays Forrest Bondurant who along with his two brothers Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LeBeouf) are successful alcohol bootleggers, producing moonshine during the Prohibition era. Forrest is the bumbling hard man who is in charge of operations, whilst Howard likes to sample the moonshine a little too much. Jack is the runt of Bondurant litter and is in the constant shadow of his older brothers.

All is well in the bootlegging world until Special Detective Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) is employed with shutting them down and will go to extreme lengths to ensure he does so. However, Forrest and his brothers aren’t keen on going quietly. The film is based on a true story and adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World.

One of the most striking things about Lawless is how violent it is. There are throats slit, necks broken and skulls caved in, and there are times when it can feel a little unnecessary and over the top. Indeed, at times the violence threatens to define the film, especially considering the somewhat flimsy plot.

Hardy & LeBeoufThere’s enough to keep the story going but there’s little else going on aside from the usual good guys vs bad guys story arc. However, it’s interesting working out who the good and the bad guys actually are. The Bondurant brothers are the ones breaking the law, yet it’s they who we root for, not the authorities trying to uphold the law.

The actual issue of bootlegging is nothing more than a MacGuffin; the real focus of the film is the relationship between the brothers and their struggle to adapt to changes in the law and technology. Due to this, it very much feels like it should be a character driven film, but with little exposition and character development (aside from perhaps Jack), it falls short on this front also.

There’s some confusion as to who the film wants to make its real protagonist. It’s narrated by Jack, but for large portions of the film the focus is firmly on Forest. It shifts between the two throughout, whilst Howard remains nothing more than a secondary character. And talking of secondary characters, there is criminal under use of the film’s leading ladies. Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska) is the daughter of a local preacher and becomes Jack’s love interest in the film, whilst Forrest’s attentions are turned by city girl Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). Again, Howard doesn’t get a look in.

Both of these characters feel a little like an after thought, as if the filmmakers realised they hadn’t actually included any women in the script and so wedged them in where they could, which is a shame because they do add another dimension to the film and the actresses’ performances are excellent. Gary Oldman is also reduced to little more than a cameo; again, his character, mobster Floyd Banner, could easily have had a little more screen time. In fact, there are so many interesting characters that Lawless could well have been a mini-series, offering more time with each, although Boardwalk Empire has pretty much got that period sewn up right now.

Special Detectice Charlie RakesAlthough this review has been quite damning, there is a lot that Lawless gets right. It’s not just Wasikowska and Chastain who provide top notch performances; the acting is superb across the board. Hardy once again proves he’s much more than just muscle, and even Shia Lebeouf proves he’s got some talent there after all. With Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac on the horizon, LeBeouf is clearly trying to move away from the Hollywood blockbusters that have earned him a somewhat tarnished reputation. Dane DeHaan also gives an entertaining performance as the brainy but rickets-riddled Cricket who help the brothers with their operation.

It’s arguably Guy Pearce’s Detective Rakes who’s the star of the show, however. His creepy, eyebrow-less visual is enhanced further by his equally creepy demeanour and willingness to go to any lengths to stop the three brothers. Pearce is superb as Rakes, giving the role the attitude and uneasiness it requires.

The film also looks absolutely fantastic. Director John Hillcoat has created a totally believable snapshot of the Prohibition era; the costumes, locales and cinematography all help create an incredibly rich mise-en-scène and a world you want to invest your time in. There’s also an excellent original soundtrack, but with Nick Cave behind the script (and some of the tracks), the music was always going to have elevated importance.

Whilst Lawless doesn’t quite reach the epic heights it clearly aspires for, it’s still an excellent watch with great performances and an interesting, if sometimes one-dimensional, narrative. It could, and perhaps should, have done a little more with the subject matter and the characters, but what it has done is immensely enjoyable and a worthy addition to all of the actors’ filmographies.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Quickie: Bronson

BronsonNotoriously known as Britain’s most dangerous criminal, Charles Bronson is the ideal candidate for a biopic. Bronson tells us the madman/misunderstood fellow’s story from when he was a child getting in fights at school right through his tumultuous prison life, detailing some of the more famous incidents, although often with some alterations and embellishments.

Told from the perspective of the man himself, we are privy to his various attacks on prison guards, his time in a mental institution and his penchant for getting into fights while completely starkers. However, the film is interspersed with narration told from a stage with Bronson dolled up in makeup (has Bronson’s life become a stageshow?), and certain parts are a little more theatrical than is probably true. This works well enough but may leave those expecting a straight up biopic a little confused.

Tom Hardy is superb as Bronson and many may be surprised by his varied acting range. From psychotic madman to troubled soul to bombastic showman, Hardy shows immense versatility not always seen in his films.

Bronson has been hailed by some as the modern generation’s A Clockwork Orange but such hyperbolic statements should not be taken too seriously. There are parallels between the two films, namely the healthy doses of the old ultraviolence and the exuberant yet dangerous nature of the protagonist, but Bronson lacks the disturbing social commentary of A Clockwork Orange, rather focusing on a single man’s misunderstood twisted troubled mind. That’s not a criticism, just an important distinction between the two films. A Clockwork Orange appalled and upset, but there is little in Bronson that will do the same once the initial shock value wears off, which it does a little too quickly.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Film review: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

With great power comes great responsibility.

Yes, yes, that’s a whole different suit o’ spandex, but it could so easily apply to the pressures surrounding Christopher Nolan approaching The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan rebooted a Batman franchise that was in dire need of an overhaul and did so to an effect that no-one could have expected. Batman Begins brought us Batman’s origin story and perfectly mixed action and sentiment, whilst The Dark Knight introduced Heath Ledger’s Joker, creating one of the most memorable comic book film villains ever. Many have hailed TDK has the greatest superhero film of all time, so just how do you follow that?

It wasn’t too long before we were introduced to Bane, the beefcake who was to take over villainous duties from The Joker, duking it out with Bats amongst literally hundreds of extras, showing that Nolan clearly wanted to show people that he was thinking big. We also got told that a certain Miss Selina Kyle would make an appearance and then the trailers arrived featuring some huge explosive set pieces. It seemed as if Nolan was right on track to concluding the series in spectacular fashion.

We pick the story up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight with Gotham in a time of peace following the work done by the late Harvey Dent and Batman seemingly gone forever. Bruce Wayne is doing a Howard Hughes and has become a recluse in Wayne Manor. However, following the emergence of the terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), who is plotting something terrible for Gotham, Wayne decides to suit up once more to put a stop to his evil plotting.

BaneAll the major players are back for more; Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), etc, but we also get the introduction of a few new faces. Of course there is Anna Hathaway’s Selina Kyle (not Catwoman, technically), but we also get Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake, a young cop in the mould of Jim Gordon, and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, a businesswoman desperate to get a nuclear energy programme up and running with Mr Wayne. These new characters add plenty more depth to the story, having various different influences on the final outcome. Of all the new additions, it’s Selina Kyle that is the most significant. Many believe Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman to be pretty definitive but Hathaway is superb as the feline femme fatale, managing to successfully capture the good gal/bad gal dynamic that is so essential to the character.

Then we come to Bane. The previous villains in the trilogy were all very much human characters in the comics, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for Nolan to drag them into his real world imagining. However, Bane is a little different. Although still human, he is traditionally of superhuman size with stupendously large muscles. Enter Tom Hardy. Hardy’s physique has become rather renowned after turns in Bronson and Warrior, so it’s no surprise to see him chosen to join the Inception reunion. Much had been made about Bane’s voice in TDKR but the problem was negligible; the evident post-production dubbing has ironed out much of the issue, with only a couple of instances that may leave you trying to work out what was said.

Bane is a fine addition to this Batman’s Rogues Gallery, along with Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow and Joker, and most certainly makes up for the abominable portrayal of the character in Batman & Robin. However, much of his actions build up to something that doesn’t really take a near 3 hour film to tell, and there is a feeling with the main plot of a little style over substance. It looks fantastic throughout and the set pieces are certainly impressive, but they feel a little shallow at times and we rarely feel the true peril that Gotham is supposedly in; Bane’s motives remain unclear for much of the film, which does leave a certain sense story being sacrificed for plot. The film, and particularly its climax, also descends into cliché at times which detracts a little from a franchise that has laid a foundation of doing things differently.

The action is nicely punctuated with more touching moments to give a change of pace and give the film a more of a Batman Begins feel; Bruce and Alfred’s emotional showdown is a highlight of the trilogy, and even Bane isn’t completely immune to a tug on the heartstrings. Alfred is the trilogy’s emotional core and once again he provides the perfect grounding for Bruce’s daredevil lifestyle. Over the three films, his story is arguably the most poignant of all. There are some plot threads however that feel underdeveloped that do nothing but add unnecessary confusion to an already packed plot.

It was always going to be difficult for Nolan to top TDK but he has done tremendously well to create a film that offers action in swathes but also a level of sensitivity that was missing from the previous film. TDKR is more character focused, harking back to Begins, which offsets the action set pieces perfectly. It might lack the originality of Begins and the depth of TDK, but TDKR is a fitting sign-off to a trilogy that has reinvented comic book adaptations and has shown that Christopher Nolan can handle both the power and responsibility bestowed upon him.

Words: Chris Thomson

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The Fighter vs Warrior

Let’s get ready to ruuuumbleeeeee!

Warrior and The Fighter are both out now on DVD and are undoubtedly excellent films, but which one is the knockout movie or will they both be saved by the bell?

Let’s weigh up the opponents …

In the Red Corner we have:

The Fighter

Release date: Dec 2010

Lead: Mark Wahlberg  (Micky Ward)

Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (Dickie Ward)

Awards: 6 Oscar nominations (2 wins)

In the Blue Corner we have:

Warrior

Release Date: Sept 2011

Lead: Tom Hardy (Tommy Conlon)

Supporting Actor: Joel Edgerton (Brendan Conlon)

Awards: 1 Oscar nomination

Round 1 – Introduction:

At the start of both films you instantly know that you’ll leave the cinema with a smile on your face. However, they both begin very differently. The Fighter simply opens with Dickie (Bale) training his brother Micky (Walhberg) for a forthcoming boxing match. However, in my opinion, the start is a little slower than I would have liked but its direction is simply stunning, and starts on a lighter note than its opponent.

Warrior throws you straight into the drama. In the first scene, we watch the relationship of a Father (the incredible Nick Nolte) happy to find his estranged son (Hardy) literally sitting on his doorstep. However, Tommy isn’t willing to forgive and forget his Father’s past, and it appears the only reason he’s came to visit him is to tell him how much he despises his old man. So, as Warrior definitely packs a punch from the beginning then it definitely wins the first round.

Round Two – The Emotional Journey:

Both characters have an emotional struggle that ultimately makes compelling viewing. In The Fighter, Micky is struggling to break free from his Mother and Brother’s continuous interference with his boxing matches until he meets Charlene (Amy Adams) who convinces him that he needs to fight for himself and not for his family.

In Warrior, Hardy is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his Mother has died and that his brother (Edgerton) refused to run away with them from his alcoholic Father. He then enters the biggest MMA match in the world to win the cash prize for the wife and child of his friend who was killed in combat.

So, the want and need is there for both characters, but the Warrior definitely offers the blow that will leave a mark the very next day.

Round Three – Family Dynamics:

Do you think your family is complicated? Well, you haven’t seen The Fighter or Warrior then. Try being Micky Ward for a day and having to deal with a brother who can’t get over the fact that he once sucker punched Sugar Ray Leonard. Also, Micky has to deal with his Dickie’s drug taking and overbearing, know-it-all attitude. As well as dealing with a controlling, money-grabbing Mother who tells him has to fight a boxer who is a division bigger than he is. I bet your family look like The Waltons now.

You can’t help but feel for Tommy Conlon in Warrior, though. He was basically left to raise himself after his Mother got cancer and then died. He also can’t forgive his Brother and Father for basically ruining his entire family. He also drives his Father back to drink when he will only view him as his trainer. Things also go from bad to worse when his brother enters the MMA competition and they’re left to battle out their differences in front of the whole world.

The fact that the brothers in Warrior only have about two scenes together in the whole film makes the atmosphere between them tenser, but it also forces you to root for one person more than the other. Therefore, if you’re looking for a film with some genuine brotherly love then you should pick up The Fighter as you see them go on a fantastic journey together.

Round Four – Action:

If you’re the type of person that loves the big fight scenes then Warrior is the film to watch. It’s non-stop action the whole way through. There’s always someone getting punched or those little training sequences which make films like these so appealing.

However, that’s not to say that The Fighter doesn’t have action, but you only really see it at the end. The biggest punches come in the form of the overall story.

Round Five – Acting:

Tom Hardy is undoubtedly one of the best actors in films right now. I don’t care if you disagree with me, it’s a fact. He plays the role of Tommy Conlon beautifully. He’s definitely believable as a silent-but-deadly character, and his role as the bitter, ex-marine draws you in from beginning to end.

Therefore, Mark Wahlberg is an unsatisfactory opponent in comparison. I personally felt that Wahlberg was incredibly wooden throughout the film with his one expression and half-hearted lines – and I’m not surprised that he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar like Bale and Leo.

However, maybe he was just overshadowed by supporting actor Christian Bale who played the role a drug addict magnificently. I doubt I’ve ever witnessed such a fantastic performance in another film, and he really did deserve the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as he stole every single scene that he was in.

The supporting actor in Warrior was also really good but was overshadowed by the lead. His story was compelling and he acted well, but his character wasn’t nearly as interesting as Hardy’s and is therefore instantly forgettable.

Round Six – The Parents:

The Father in Warrior, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), is definitely at the heart of the film and is ultimately what pushes away and brings together the brothers. His vulnerability is gripping and you cannot help but feel for him, even if he was a little bit of a bastard in the past. However, I would have loved to have seen a little bit more of him and know how his relationship with his Brendan panned out, but unfortunately this is a question that was left unanswered.

The Mother in The Fighter, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), is so strong that I’m surprised she didn’t just knock Micky out the way and get in the ring herself. The fact that she refuses to believe that Dickie has a drug problem or that Micky will never be half the fighter his brother was only makes you love and hate her. You can’t help but loathe her when she’s strong but adore her when she’s weak, and I believe that makes her one of the most refreshing characters in film.

Round Seven – Believability:

The Fighter is based on a true story and therefore you become emotionally attached to the characters from the beginning. The life of Micky Ward is both fascinating and inspirational, and the film is without doubt a superb homage to the boxer’s rags to riches tale. Therefore, you believe in the story 110% and it really does give you that warm buzz I love so much once the end credits roll.

I honestly thought that Warrior was based on a true story at the end of the film, which I think shows that it’s an incredibly believable story and I almost wish it was real. Without giving too much away, the final shot in the film is visually stunning and extremely emotive. In fact, it would take someone without a heart to not feel moved. Maybe if Warrior was based on a real story then it would have received more critical acclaim.

Round Eight – Unanswered Questions:

The Fighter answered all my questions. It didn’t leave any big plot holes and everything was summed up pretty much perfectly.

Warrior, however, did leave a few frustrating questions, such as what happened to the dead marine’s wife and child? Why did Tommy visit his Father in the first place? Did Brendan form a relationship with his Father?

Round Nine – Overall Experience:

If you want to see a good drama that’s not too heavy then pick up The Fighter, but if you want a film with a  real punch then opt for Warrior.

And the Winner is …

WARRIOR!

So what if it leaves some unanswered questions. Who cares if it’s not based on a true story? This film is a good mix of emotion, action and brotherly love and will leave you reaching out for both the tissues and the punch bag.

Words: Lis King

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