Click on the poster for the official trailer.
"I need to know I am not just driving in one direction..."

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy)

When the evening cinemagoers check the schedules at their local picture houses, it may be fair to say that, on description, Steven Knight's second directorial effort Locke will not get everyone's pulses racing. A small British film set within the confines of one car as the protagonist drives from Birmingham to London taking phone calls for 90 minutes? Who would choose to see this, when in the next auditorium is the epileptic-inducing whiz-bang adventures of an annoying tween bitten by a radioactive bluebottle and taking gargantuan super-villains to task in an unrecognizable American city (i.e. New York)? Now before you ask, yes I do enjoy the comic book exploits that have flooded our screens in recent years. But for those looking for something more original and involving than another CG-enhanced smack down, Locke could be just the ticket - an intimate, character-driven drama with one of the best central performances of the year at its heart.
PictureMad Ivan: Fury Road?
Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a highly regarded construction manager and dedicated family man, about to take part in the biggest project of his career. But when a phone call threatens to shatter his carefully constructed life completely, Locke steps into his high tech BMW and makes a bold decision to drive from the West Midlands to the capital to try and fix everything before it is too late. A film that puts a single character on screen must have a truly dynamic presence at its core, and Tom Hardy smashes this out of the park in a masterclass in acting. Conveying the inner torture to this man's dilemma without ever resorting to histrionics, Hardy brilliantly pushes our own opinions on his predicament to one side and commands the viewer to understand his views and efforts. He is never alone, however - the phone is alight with various characters in Ivan's life, and each call threatening to destroy everything he has worked so hard to construct. Credit is due to the array of supporting actors who are able to convey so much through their voices alone, but this is clearly Hardy's show and he controls every ounce of the audience's attention.

PictureFrom Brum With Love...
After his underwhelming debut in the director chair, the Jason Statham-led Hummingbird, Knight has taken a massive step forward with Locke. It could have been easy to make his protagonist a spy or assassin, racing down the M1 from an unseen enemy or rival killer. Knight takes an altogether more left-field approach - taking an ordinary man at a pivotal moment in his life and playing it out on screen. The drama is drawn not from action, but from inaction - if our hero had acted sooner, could he have prevented the potential fallout that he is now faced with? The screen is filled by the confines of Locke's BMW, the street lights and car headlamps reflecting across the windscreen and adding a neo-noir sheen to the cinematography. It is a scenario that every motorist can relate to and the audience will find the problems presented on screen all too real and achievable. Hardy's Welsh accent and the slightly ambiguous ending may divide some viewers, while others may argue that the low key drama could work just as effectively on TV and not in the cinema. But for me it was one of the best films of the year so far, with Hardy's performance demanding the biggest screen you can find. And spare a thought for your fellow motorist seemingly screaming at himself in his car the next time you are stuck on the motorway - perhaps his entire world is about to fall apart…

One of the finest British films of recent years, Locke is a powerful and affecting drama about one man's downfall and his efforts to save everything he has built. Tightly scripted, economically shot and centered on a career-best performance from Tom Hardy, Steven Knight's second feature is a little British gem that should be embraced by everyone who desires an alternative to comic book adaptations and found-footage horror movies.

Click on the poster for the official trailer...
"It will be a few months. You can't know where I am. And I can't be seen anywhere near you."

Rama (Iko Uwais)

One of the sleeper hits of 2012, Indonesian martial arts action film The Raid proved that there is a strong desire for innovative bone-crunching violence. Welsh director Gareth Evans and his star/co-choreographer Iko Uwais brought the visceral Minangkabau tiger style of Pencak Silat to the unsuspecting eyes of Western audiences, providing a much-needed shot in the arm to the genre through the use of knees, elbows, even strip light bulbs to blood-spurting effect. Now the much-anticipated follow-up film has arrived, with advanced word suggesting that the hard-hitting sequences in the first film are mere child's play compared to the sequel… And so it would prove emphatically.

PictureSTOP... Hammer Time!
Taking place only a few hours after the events of the previous movie, The Raid 2 finds our baby-faced hero Rama (Uwais) forced to go undercover in the city's toughest prison, determined to get close to the son of a criminal mastermind who is already incarcerated. Raman's mission to discover the levels of corruption within his own police force are compacted by the thirst for a personal revenge that will take him deep within the belly of the Indonesian underworld. It is clear from the off that Evans has grown in confidence since The Raid, presenting his audience with a sequel of truly epic proportions in both cast and in scope. It could have been easy to simply drop his hero in a similar situation to the gangland tower block in the first film and simply repeat the process. But Evans has chosen to advance his original's characters and offer up a whole rogues gallery of gangsters and assassins that all have differing motives and underhand tactics. After the claustrophobic environs of the previous movie, here we have lackey executions in the cane fields, rain-drenched prison yard fisticuffs and even a non-stop 40 minute restaurant-set finale where our hero must fight his way through the goons, level bosses and final round masterminds that one usually finds in a computer game.

PictureHomage to Under Siege? ... I doubt it.
Evans makes every single second of this 150-minute punch-fest grander in every department. The production design and camerawork brings back memories of last year's Only God Forgives, without coldly distancing the audience as Winding Refn's film endeavored to. Some of the acting work is excellent - Uwais continues to be one of the most interesting modern action heroes, while Yayan Ruhian must be singled out in a heart-breaking performance as a vagabond hit man with personal motives to his actions. The violence is even more graphic as tachyon hammers rip throats out in bloodthirsty detail and baseball bats are smashed so hard into faces that they are left firmly wedged in the victims' skulls. And the action is even more bold as Uwais and fellow fight co-ordinator Ruhian exceed their previous work. A prison toilet fight between Rama and an entire prison wing of crims, a five-way free-for-all in the confines of an SUV and especially a kitchen-based epic battle between our hero and a karambit-wielding henchman are among the finest action set-pieces in recent times.

There are some drawbacks to be had by opening out the sequel. While the original was lean and slick in every aspect, the expansion of this world allows Evans to occasionally over-indulge in his (admittedly beautiful) cinematography and set design - leaving some scenes a little bloated and baggy. The undercover cop storyline is nothing we haven't seen before in hundreds of other movies, and with so many characters fighting (literally) for attention on screen we occasionally lose sight of our hero amongst the thrall. These are only minor quibbles however, as The Raid 2 remains one of the most exciting action films in the last ten years. And no director in current times has made you feel every tendon slicing over broken glass, every arm snapped backwards or every gunshot decimating a villain's skull quite the way that Evans does - my wife's response to the on-screen carnage… "My heart hurts! It's been pummeled into submission!"

If you look for subtlety and nuance in your films, forget it - The Raid 2 is a skull-crushing, throat-slitting, face-exploding blood-fest. Epic in style and scale, bloodier than a day trip to an abattoir and edited to within a inch of its life, Gareth Evans' martial arts gangster flick is a true boys-own violent wet dream - a high watermark in modern hardcore action cinema.