Tom Hardy Should Be The Next Big Action Star, If He Wants It

By Katey Rich 2011-09-07 21:22:30discussion comments
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Deep into the third act of Warrior, Tom Hardy is in the ring and injured. His character Tommy Riordan, a Marines veteran with a constellation of chips on his shoulder, has proven over and over again that he's a bruiser, both capable of knocking out opponents in a single punch and unwilling to give up even when logic says he should. Desperate to continue his last fight, Tommy narrows his eyes and lumbers toward the center of the ring, looking like a cornered mountain lion, a barely human heap of muscle and will. Even in his diminished state, Tommy seems capable of virtually anything.

Paired along with his equally muscular and charismatic performance in Bronson, and to a lesser extent his dapper thief in Inception, Tom Hardy is starting to look like this decade's possible favorite brawny hero, the first breakout star in years who seems both capable and interested in taking over that difficult mantle of action star. It's been tough in the last few years to find any new stars in the mold of big men like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, or even Jason Statham, the last actor the action genre really adopted as its own. Stars of action-heavy blockbuster movies tend to be plucked out of nowhere and plugged into an existing character-- Chrises Hemsworth and Evans of Thor and Captain America, Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter-- or shrimpy relatable every-guys thrown into extraordinary circumstances-- think Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers movies. There are very few actors under the age of 40 whom audiences will turn out simply to see them kick ass-- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is 39, and no, The Karate Kid does not mean Jaden Smith counts.

With upcoming roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Wettest County in the World that will rely more on his acting chops than his biceps, Hardy doesn't seem interested in simply being an onscreen bruiser-- and good for him. He's far too talented, and far too early in his career, to stick with any one thing. But if he wants it, Hardy's got the chance to become an action star who's more Bruce Willis than Chuck Norris, capable of slipping easily between genres, trying on comedy or fantasy or Sundance indies, all while maintaining the ability to show up on a movie poster holding a gun and getting audiences to show up in droves. He's not there yet, of course-- Warrior hasn't even hit theaters yet, and while many may remember his "You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger darling" line from Inception, they probably can't name him.

But with both the McG-directed This Means War-- in which Hardy is paired with no less than Reese Witherspoon as a love interest-- and of course, The Dark Knight Rises coming next year, Hardy seems to be going nowhere but up, and fast. Maybe he'll get sick of going to the gym and start relying on his formidable acting talents entirely-- I wouldn't blame him. But there's a blank space we've been saving for a new action star, and just one glimpse at Warrior proves it's Tom Hardy's for the taking.
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