One man shows are always an interesting idea, and seeing them come together well is a satisfying experience. Much like All Is Lost, this is a story of one man's struggle - although while his emotional state is often at the center of the story, what he is up against is very different. Rather than facing the elements and fighting against unfavorable odds this is more about a moral battle and an internal conflict. Tom Hardy pulls this off in a plot about employment and marital problems, one that has multiple conversations about pouring cement and hiring building site workers. But in spite of this and along with the fact it's all set inside of a car on the road at night with little in terms of visual variety, it works as a very engaging and dramatic piece of film.
The titular Ivan Locke is a building project manager with a lot on his mind, although his work does make a larger proportion of this. The story plays out as a series of phone calls without any points of view being shown from the other characters, they are just voices in his car. Hardy's Welsh accent may falter a tiny bit in some places but he carries this all in an impressive central performance. As the plot unravels the reasons for his stressed but level headed character start to become apparent as he battles his own demons which set up the way he is reacting to these events. Most interestingly some of this is done in conversation with his father who he imagines as a passenger in the back seat. Whether his decisions are morally justified or something to be admired are left open to interpretation as the reactions from the other characters provide differing opinions on his personality. He certainly has a set of ideals pushing him towards the end destination for better or worse, but it does paint a picture of integrity in one way or another. Even if domestic issues may be more relatable than ones about building work and concrete quality standards.
While Locke's emotional state is centre stage and manages to be a very attention grabbing piece of work, there are other elements holding this in place. The darkness of the roads at night are visually repetitive but do manage to convey the sense of how the character is alone in his predicament, and the accompanying music does a good job of adding to this overall mood. The dazzling headlights and yellow street lamps often become a blur as close ups and shots from outside the car mix, adding to this sense of the man himself being single minded in his determination - like a visual of tunnel vision in some ways. The other characters including his work colleagues and family members, some who become more aggressive and unhelpful than others do a good job of giving their feelings when their faces are off screen. The twists and turns of the storyline may prevent this from being as interesting on repeat viewings, but it goes to show what is important when telling a story when the best films of 2013 are the ones with the least actors.
Continuing the trend of foreign movies releases being about twisted violence and disturbing events, Killers is a collaboration between Japanese film makers and the Indonesian company behind The Raid films. Like this overseas meeting, the events of the film show the crossing of paths between a serial killer in Tokyo and a journalist from Jakarta who is slowly becoming a vigilante as his interest in murders being filmed by the former starts to grow. While the more sane of the two has some issues with local crime bosses getting away after he tried to have them exposed - something which cost his marriage - the descent into becoming someone who also posts death on the internet isn't entirely convincing. While the film offers plenty of horror moments and a lot of stylish sequences, the two central characters just aren't drawn with enough depth or motivation which ultimately undermines the story. Still if you are looking for something in the vein of (the superior) I Saw The Devil it may be for you.