13. Child 44
This one had a lot of potential. A little bit of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, mixed with promise of more thrills and more Tom Hardy. And plus, none other than Gary Oldman was co-starring.
But despite what might be his most underrated performance, neither Hardy nor Oldman can keep this mystery and suspense film very mysterious or suspenseful. They keep our hopes up with their performances, only for the movie to never follow through on anything truly gripping.
This thriller is set in 1953 Soviet Russia, where Hardy’s secret police agent Leo Demidov is disgraced for not denouncing his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), as a traitor to the regime. This is all while trying to solve a string of child murders the government covers up. Along the way, the couple receives help from Oldman’s General Mikhail Nesterov.
The source material (a 2008 novel by Tom Rob Smith) was strong. It even had franchise potential if it was any good (there were a trilogy of books). Unfortunately, the whole film feels flat narratively and depresses the tension at every corner.
It might be worth watching for the leading roles, even if the accents are a bit overdone. But straying from the source material as much as it did was the worst thing for it.
The only thing better than one Tom Hardy is two of them.
At least that was the thinking behind the story of twin brothers Ronald and Reginald Kray, gangsters and night club owners who owned the London streets in the days of the Stones and Beatles.
This isn’t a British Goodfellas in terms of gangster biopics, but Hardy’s performances could’ve been in Oscar nomination talk had the film been better. He raises the script into another league and displays an acting masterclass without making it feel like one. Having two of him didn’t promise twice the enjoyment, but that’s exactly what was delivered anyway.
Yes, the film is predictable, chaotically compiled, and violent for the sake of the genre it’s in. But it gives Hardy a stage to properly entertain and showcase his talents. And that’s exactly what he does, and then some.
A story taking place entirely in a car seems a little risky. Placing a single person in the car and having him talk to himself and others on the phone could be enough to turn everyone off. But when it’s Hardy, it seems like 85 minutes isn’t long enough of a drive.
Locke follows Ivan Locke, a dedicated father and husband played by Hardy. When a recent mistake in judgement and his family past come back to haunt him, it tests his family-man image.
It almost seems like this movie is trying to make us see how Hardy can do so much with so little. The camera never leaves his presence, always staying in close and giving the character and audience a claustrophobic feeling. And during the family mess he must deal with, it’s very easy to attach to the character, no matter the mistake he’s made.
It is on the extremes of intimacy, but Locke doesn’t overstay its welcome. Hardy doesn’t wear out the emotional aspects when recollecting his childhood, but still displays an instability that makes us wonder and care how Locke will turn out in the end.
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This is definitely Gary Oldman’s movie. After all, he was nominated by the Academy for it. But in limited screen-time, Hardy adds meaningful personal stakes to the film.
Following along with this movie is harder than it is in most, and there’s a lot of pieces the audience is expected to fit in. But this remake of the Alec Guinness-starring 1979 cold war espionage film has a loaded cast to try and keep moviegoers engaged.
Colin Firth, Oldman, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Hardy are just a few of several talented British actors who make appearances. There’s a lot going on even when the film is much more silent, but it reflects the characters’ feelings perfectly.
The only issue with this film is keeping focus. There are small lulls that will risk the attention of a viewer. But the film kicks up during the final third and delivers a well-fitting puzzle for all of those who pulled through the first half of the film.
9. The Drop
In The Drop, Hardy plays a quiet and unassuming Brooklyn bartender who collects and safekeeps money being funneled to local gangs.
Much of the movie plays as yet another New York mob film, but it does so with quality. The late James Gandolfini, in what would be his final performance, looms large over this film and creates the intimidating presence he carried for years in The Sopranos.
As for Hardy, he doesn’t seem like much of a mystery at all. He’s a simple everyman, lonely and minding his own business, even after the bar is robbed and dirt gets figuratively dug up all around him.
But by the end, when it seems set that this will be a passable but forgettable film, a little twist and punch allows for the audience to go away satisfied. The Dennis Lehane script (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) helps a lot, but the talents of Hardy, Gandolfini, and Noomi Rapace do their part in rising to the occasion.
In some ways, this can still be considered the quintessential Tom Hardy performance. If we were ranking these titles on those alone, this would be at least six spots higher, if not more.
Hardy plays the lead role in this highly-exaggerated bio crime drama about infamous life-long prisoner, Charles Bronson. There are several scenes that will stick with you involving the psychotic Bronson and his insane antics.
The film can often turn into a strange, stylistic nightmare you don’t want to get out of. This could be explained by the fact it’s directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, an auteur known for surrealist visuals. His vaudeville-styled theatre scenes bring a new light to Bronson while keeping the pace from slacking too much.
And Hardy does the rest, hitting several psychotic tendencies and impressing the real-life Bronson himself. He may always be known for being in Nolan movies or that post-apocalyptic film we’ll talk about later. But everything he’s become started with Bronson.
There’s a slew of talent in this film. Its focus is on Shia LaBeouf. But it’s clear Hardy owns this film beginning-to-end as Forrest Bondurant, one of three bootlegging brothers.
Lawless is set in prohibition-era Virginia, a true story based off the novel, “The Wettest County in the World”. When gangsters (led by Gary Oldman) and a slick, corrupt lawman from Chicago (Guy Pearce at his slimiest) muddle with the brothers’ affairs, their bond is tested like never before.
It at times feels as if the film is being made with the drunken craziness of a filmmaker on white lightning. But that’s what makes it so entertaining. That and its cast that also includes Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska.
The violence in this one is real, gritty, and portrayed often. But it sets up part of a wild tone that never ceases from gluing your eyes to the screen. Hardy plays the grumbling and grumpy bear of the family, but simultaneously achieves in being protective and endearing.
Though LaBeouf is often the lovable loser, Hardy makes the brothers worth rooting for throughout the near-two-hour runtime.