Trailer Face-Off: Locke vs. Joe

Published February 20, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Locke and Joe, two films dedicated to human life unraveling that are receiving critical praise.

The PremiseLocke follows Tom Hardy as Ivan, a construction manager and devoted father with an amusing Welsh accent driving home from work. It all sounds pretty mundane, but in the 85 minutes that ensue, via the 21 st  century technology that is the car phone, secrets from Ivan’s past resurface and stress levels escalate. “I was only 23-years-old!” Ivan explains in a voiceover. The film is a one-man show that’s been receiving a good amount of buzz from the Sundance. Toronto, and Venice Film Festivals.

The plot of Joe focuses on Gary and Wade, a son and father (played by Tye Sheridan and the late Gary Poulter) who come to town and seek work from ex-con Joe (Nicholas Cage). Joe soon realizes  that Wade’s violent, drunk behavior is putting Gary and their family in danger, and he questions his own history with the law trying to help them. Locke‘s one-man plot may be more of a risk, but that risk might also promise more of a return.Advantage: Locke

Cast (or lack thereof)Tom Hardy plays Locke‘s titular character Ivan Locke. Actors Ruth Wilson and Tom Holland are also credited, but only their voices are featured in the film. Hardy is essentially the sole physical character, and he’s on screen, in the car for the movie’s duration of 85 minutes. Joe features a throwback Nick Cage—an actor unlike the one we’ve come to know post-National Treasure. It also stars Tye Sheridan, the breakout of this past summer’s Mud as Gary, the boy who comes under Joe’s wing. While we don’t doubt Tom Hardy’s performance, chemistry between characters is generally what keeps us engaged in a film.Advantage: Joe

The Illusive ProtagonistIf the voiceovers from the trailer do the part any justice, Hardy’s Ivan Locke will be suspicious and increasingly agitated as he attempts to hold his life together over the phone. The series of conversations that drive the film have a difficult task in propelling him from an opaque stranger to a nuanced man the audience can understand. As an ex-con with a violent past, Cage’s Joe is a man putting on the ill-fitting role of hero for a boy far nobler than he. The mystery regarding his past and what landed him in prison will slowly unfold alongside 15-year-old Gary’s increasingly unsustainable situation. Both male leads have skeletons in their closets, but the manner in which Ivan’s will be revealed tips the scales in his favor. Advantage: Locke

Suspense FactorThe fact that Locke is categorized as a thriller and Joe as a drama goes a long way on this one. Joe is a typical “mysterious stoic becomes the hero” story, but Locke is unconventional in the way the plot unfolds. Both seem to have storylines that emanate tension, but novelty always wins out over predictability in suspense factor. Advantage: Locke

ConsequencesFrom what we can tell of Locke‘s plot from the sketchily hashed out trailer, Ivan Locke’s problems are mostly of the relationship/job variety. Hardy’s flashes of anger at some points do indicate more serious consequences, but it’s clear from the first 30 seconds of the Joe trailer that Nicholas Cage and Gary Poulter’s characters are inevitably coming to some sort of violent confrontation. Locke is intriguing, but as long as Ivan doesn’t plot twist on us and crash that car, it looks like Joe is in for worse trouble.Advantage: Joe

The VerdictJoe reminds us a bit of Mud in its grit and potential for engaging character development, but there’s something about the anxious polish of Locke that begs to be seen.Winner: Locke

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.