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Tom Hardy's Furrowed Brow Acting

by Murtada

I have a curious relationship with Tom Hardy. I like him as an actor but almost never get excited about the movies that he’s in. And that doesn't look like it will change. On the heels of his signing to play Spider Man baddie Venom in a stand-alone film, Hardy will produce and star in My War Gone By, I Miss It So. The film is a  personal account of the Bosnian War, based on the 1999 book of the same name by Anthony Loyd, an English journalist and war correspondent. Gavin O’Connor who has previously directed Hardy in Warrior (2011) is attached to direct. Another war film and another macho aggressive character for Hardy to play.

Hardy is currently on screen in Dunkirk,  of course...

And, has been abundantly documented everywhere, the Christopher Nolan war epic is another instance when most of Hardy's face - particularly those luscious lips - hides behind a mask. We’ve seen this before in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Mad Max Fury Road (2015). So all we have to connect with, is his beautiful furrowed brow. Of course he’s charismatic, but anyone that says things like “he does more with his eyes” is just projecting.

Only at the very end of Dunkirk do we get Hardy looking like the star he could be. One quick shot of him staring wistfully at the horizon after his mission has ended, he’s projecting movie stardom on the screen instead of us projecting onto him something that's not in his performance.

It was in the Nolan film Inception (2010) that Hardy his first huge mainstream impression. He was charismatic and suave, looking to-die-for in his slightly oversized but still fetching suits. His interplay with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is what I most remember about that film. They had an easy, chummy, even sexy chemistry.

Where’s that Hardy now?

Hardy is alternating tough antagonists (The Revenant), tough lonesome heroes (Mad Max) or tough dour law and order keepers (Child 44). When Hardy shows vulnerability he’s great (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and greater still when he mixes vulnerability with his trademark toughness (Warrior, Locke). When was the last time we saw Hardy play with an actress on screen romantically? Did This Means War (2012) scare him away from movie romance forever? Men fighting wars and brute criminals seeking redemption can’t be the only characters he gets offered.

Hardy is always a compelling presence on screen, I’d just like to see him exhibit more colors. In which mode do you like your Hardy?

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Reader Comments (24)

I would never say Hardy's bad, but he's never made much of an impression on me beyond his muffled speech. I even still have trouble identifying him visually.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCash

I love when he drops brow.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

He was the weakest link in the generally awful This Means War so maybe he should stay off rom coms, but romantic stories like Wuthering Heights, that's a mode I like. He should also speak with his natural British lovely accent.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGena

"Legend" is the only performance of his that I feel taps into everything he does best... x 2.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterN8

Not a big fan of his... do not get the heartthrob part at all.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

His perf in Batman is underrated. Tremendous voice acting. And his charisma shines through in even those more silent roles. His best perf so far has to be The Drop. Great subtle acting.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTr

I love him, but still waiting for better roles for him, too. A brooding romantic hero or suave spy type would be nice for my own purely selfish purposes. :)

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Hardy was so sexy in "Inception" - he needs to do a love story with either gay or straight

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

some of the best brow acting in the business tbh

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Watch Fury Road, Legend, Locke and The Drop and marvel at his versatility and general awesomeness. Plus he's sex on a stick. One of my favourite actors.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

I have the nagging feeling that he doesn't want his good looks to overwhelm the performance he's delivering hence the various disguises and angst-filled characters.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Tom hardy is beautiful to look at and I agree I think this holds him back , he always seems to project he wants to be one of the classic greats. However he needs to get over his own looks ( poor baby ) and widen his range if he even wants to get near this. Overrated currently in the talent stakes unless of course you are just looking at his face ... which recently in the movies you v rarely are !

And his own accent is such a strained posh boy weird urban thang I'm not sure even he knows what his own accent is !!!

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGizmo

I agree. I haven't liked him in stuff like Warrior (too Brando) or Legend (garbage movie that nobody survived from). I'd probably say my favourite performance is Inception, too. Although I liked him in Locke even if the film left me less than satisfied, to be honest. Although I did think he brought the right amount of weary masculinity to Mad Max. Didn't care for him in The Revenant and can't bring myself to watch Taboo unless it's secretly about kinky sex and nobody's told me.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I just wish he was in better, less action-heavy films. My favourites have been Tinker Taylor, Inception and The Revenant, although I do have a soft spot for TDKR and Warrior. Taboo is wonderful, but he still plays the hard man. It's hard being a Hardy fan when you're not a fan of violence. Many discussions about Hardy as Bond, there would have to be sex scenes, if Nolan directs, can he do sex scenes at all?

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGoldie

Love this guy too. The first film where I remembered him was in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but then it also features an Übermensch lineup from Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth to Hardy himself and Gary Oldman. I thought he was brilliant in a subtler character study like the one in The Drop. I admired Locke much more than I loved it but then again films I admire seem to have longer staying power in my mind than those films I intensely love only to peter out from memory in succeeding years.

I wonder what gravitas he can bring to a Kelly Reichardt film (although men are not usually front and center in Reichardt's films except Night Moves); or maybe to work with Yorgos Lanthimos (maybe something surreal and comic can be unleashed from him). Can he be a credible urban sophisticate via a Noah Baumbach film? I do like to see him in a romcom with someone like Kate Beckinsale or in a twisted relationship with Tilda Swinton in something like Young Adam.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Not really a fan. The type of characters he plays don't particularly interest me. He's not a bad actor just not appealing to me personally.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNorman

Hollywood despite catering to white male talent has nothing particularly interesting for Hardy to get excited about as an actor. Hence playing character parts and Johnny Depp-ugly / bizarre-eccentric leads.

F romantic comedies and dramas.

August 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

We certainly hope he can do sex scenes, because some of us want to see him in sex... scenes.

He might be wary of being "too pretty", and not want to go the Leo / Cruise / Affleck route, Perhaps he feels more like Alec Baldwin, a character actor in a leading man body. (And what bodies!)

August 3, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Can we already say that Nolan has the Dunkirk nomination for Best Picture and the Best Director win already locked up?

My only question, is to which film it's going to lose Best Picture. So far, I'd say that film will be "Detroit"

August 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

nobody seem to have seen his Heathcliff from 2014 .
. . Sexy, broody, dangerous . . WOW

August 3, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn hewinson

Tom is one of my favorite actors. I first got hooked seeing him in The Take. I think he likes to do roles that push him outside of his comfort zone, acting for its sake rather than an award. Roles as in Stuart A Life Backward, Bronson, Wuthering Heights, The Take, Warrior, Locke, Legend (that was a very brave one no matter how it turned out), Inception, etc. The guy's also done theatre work and gotten awards for that. Yes, he does have a fascination for damaged characters, however, he can play tender love scenes (I hope he has another opportunity to work with Jessica Chastain, they have a wonderful chemistry together).

August 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Agree with so much said here in the article.

But also, he was pretty adorable in RocknRolla, if I remember correctly.

August 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Check out Scenes of a Sexual Nature (2006) - Hardy is charmingly awkward in this multiple storyline film set in Hamsptead Heath on an English summers day. (Film also has Ewan McGregor playing a fey gay man...if you are into that)

August 5, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermatt

This was probably done on purpose given the plot of the movie, but Chris Pine was so winnable in This Means War (and with the superior chemistry with Reese) that he actually made Hardy's character feel quite meh in comparison.

I just love Tom Hardy when he's being weird, I dunno. I would never say this in a very public arena for fear of being crucified, but his Bane may have soared to more iconic heights than Ledger's Joker. I see people my age and younger kids quote Bane and imitate his voice gleefully on a regular basis, which is spectacular when you think about how bad the Bane's lines actually are. I thought he was both tender and wonderfully weird in Lawless, and similarly in Mad Max: Fury Road. His furrowed brow in Dunkirk deserves its own award category.

I agree with Murtada in that most of his movies are hard to get excited for, because the ones with non-auteurs always look terrible. Also, the thing in common about his best movies is that they're more ensemble pieces where he gets to play off people and things, and be silent for large chunks of time, so maybe that's the secret as well?

September 5, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

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