Tom Hardy: Unmasked

So, there’s been a joke going around the internet about Tom Hardy always being masked in his movies. Granted, that does appear to be Hollywood’s latest kink, but it’s just not true in the grand-Hardy scheme of things.

I am that person that goes onto their favourite actor’s IMDB page to find and watch every feature length film they’ve been in; so, in the confidence of my dedicated and expert research, I present to you Hardy’s unmasked masterpieces. 

Bronson (2008)

Considering the theme is bare-faced roles only, I thought it appropriate to start with Bronson (pictured above), as Hardy spends an impressive amount of screen time naked and shouting. At one point he is even naked, oiled, and shouting.

For those who don’t know, Charles Bronson is a man labelled as “Britain’s most violent prisoner” and Bronson is the heavily stylised biopic of his life. It is, to no-one’s surprise, a very violent film, with Hardy (who bulked up massively for the role) throwing punches in every other scene. But you don’t have to be a big fan of fighting to appreciate both the film and Hardy’s acting. Yes, physically, he’s intimidating, but he doesn’t just rely on this, Hardy thoroughly commits to the psyche of Bronson; the guy is unnerving, strange, and oddly funny. I would even go as far as labelling Bronson one of my favourite of Hardy’s roles, purely due to the effort he so very clearly put into every scene. His performance, combined with the brilliantly thought out soundtrack, pacing, and editing, makes Bronson a captivating and uncomfortably refreshing watch. 

Stuart a Life Backwards (2007)


Originally a TV film, Stuart a Life Backwards is the story of a writer (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is attempting to document the life of Stuart (Hardy), who is both homeless and alcoholic. The two actors play against each other well, with Hardy’s gruff exterior and slurring words the perfect contrast to Cumberbatch’s ‘fresh out of Cambridge’, posh-boy vibe.

The film is, what I would describe as, a very typically British film. It’s unpolished, it lacks aesthetic and gives off a Ken Loach-ian feel with its gristly picture and raw soundtrack. Its story is difficult and unpleasant at times, but, thanks to the unapologetic bareness of the production, it feels undoubtedly real. The relationship between the two characters is not an easy one and it eventually crescendos into an emotional and heartbreaking climax, which is a credit to both Hardy and Cumberbatch as actors. If you’re looking to see Hardy truly unmasked, this is perhaps the best choice for you; Stuart is unlike any of the tough-guy roles Hardy has played since and it is both refreshing and impressive to see him thrive as such.

Legend (2015)


Now, I’m under the impression that most people have seen Legend. So this may be a wasted inclusion, but a valued one none-the-less because it’s a Tom Hardy 2-for-1.

In playing both the Kray twins, Hardy not only provides an enjoyable, exciting, and humorous experience, but also showcases his own brilliancy. With a little help from a prosthetic nose and a pair of glasses, Hardy plays the two very different personalities well, with no confusion over who’s who. I mean, that’s what you’d expect him to do, but it’s worth the applause regardless. The film itself breaks from the grittiness of the British Gangster genre, and instead boasts an Americanised make-over (and I am thankful to the director, Brian Helgeland, for making it so). It’s cool, violent, and filled to the brim with the illegally lavish lifestyle we love to see. How true it is to the Kray’s actual story, I don’t know; it’s plainly targeted toward an international (American) audience and therefore, rates glamour over reality. But, it really is just a cool film and Hardy was, without a doubt, the only actor capable of pulling it off.

Lawless (2012)


I’m going to start with a Top Tip for watching Lawless: put the subtitles on. Hardy is, even at his best, not keen on enunciation and his portrayal of bootlegger Forrest Bondurant is a tragic victim of it to say the least.

Despite that, Hardy’s performance is strong as always, and Lawless still stands to be one of my favourite films. It follows the growth of the Bondurant brother’s moonshine business and it is a dream to watch. The cast is a surprisingly coherent mix: Hardy plays the oldest brother, with Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke completing the trio, Jessica Chastain plays the sure-footed Maggie, and Guy Pearce is the slimiest villain ever to grace my screen. The relationships are nuanced and constantly developing, the soundtrack is beautifully bespoke, and the conflicts are as terrifying as they are convincing. It would be wrong to say that Hardy really makes the movie (especially with the dead-neutrality of Forrest’s character), but his presence is one of the factors that gives Lawless reason to be shouted about. 

Warrior (2011)


At first glance, this film would’ve never appealed to me. A slow-burning drama following the intertwining lives of two MMA-fighting brothers? Not my thing at all. But, for the sake of Tom Hardy, and with love and dedication to his art, I stepped out of my film-themed-comfort zone and into the unknown.

Warrior is, honestly, a sensational piece of film and another that I would recommend to just about anyone. It is dark, angsty, emotional cinema. The relationship between the brothers is fascinating; the combination of Hardy and Edgerton (seen above) works magnificently, creating a tense and believable dynamic. The addition of their father, played by Nick Nolte, twists the brothers into a complex triangle of  family dysfunction that will have you pining to hug them all. The narrative is strong, and the acting is stronger. I guarantee you’ll be impressed. As for the actual MMA fights, they are, to my unfamiliar eye, very realistic; they’ll have you on the edge of your tear-stained seat. I won’t spoil it, but the last twenty minutes of the film is one of the most stressful, heartbreaking series of events I’ve ever willingly endured and it is all Hardy’s fault. 

Notable mentions:

  • Inception (2010) – The film that catapulted him into mainstream cinema with one of my all time favourite characters, Eames. It’d be an injustice to Hardy himself to not give his unmasked performance in Inception a shout out.
  • Deserter (2002) – I can’t lie to you, it isn’t great, it’s a low budget film trying its best. But, the story is interesting and Hardy’s character, Pascal Dupont, is as engaging and broody as you’d want him to be (minus the questionable French accent).
  • This Means War (2012) – The plot, two spies using their skills to fight over Reese Witherspoon, is very flawed. However, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine? It’s a delicious combination worth overlooking your morals for.
  • RocknRolla (2008)   It’s a film I’d recommend to almost anyone, there’s action, humour, and Idris Elba. Hardy’s part is small, but treasured and it definitely deserves a watch.
  • The Drop (2014) – I could boast this crime film’s ability to sculpt tension and mystery, but instead I’ll just show you the main selling point: Hardy + tiny puppy.

Tom Hardy at the "Animal Rescue" movie set in Brooklyn

Picture by: Jose Perez / Splash News

It’s only just dawning on me how petty it is to write an entire post in response to a meme I didn’t agree with, but, we’ve come too far to turn back now.

Happy Watching.


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