UK Release: July 25th 2014
Marking a change from his recent form for director David Gordon Green (‘Pineapple Express’/’The Sitter’/’Your Highness’), ‘JOE’ is film about an ex-con called Joe (Nicolas Cage), befriending a 15 year old kid Gary (Tye Sheridan), however Joe’s past does come to haunt him and so does the young boys father. The film did pick up controversy when being made, particularly how Gordon Green casted the young boys alcoholic father, with someone who had real life drink problems of actor Gary Poulter, who sadly passed away before the film was released.
Based on the novel of the same name by Larry Brown, the film has a rich look in atmosphere and often grotesque early Malick look to the cinematography from Tim Orr (a frequent collaborator with Gordon Green since ‘Snow Angels’). This really helps to bring this theme that societal imperfections do happen in real life underneath these areas which are covered in green and brown forstery and mud. And the idea that really it is all just broken. And the same can be said here, not just in its backwoods setting (like ‘Mud’ but without the sunshine), but to the characters as well. Joe himself is running from past which is very volatile but has a heart to take Gary in, the young boy Gary isn’t afraid to stand up for himself despite being a hard worker for his family, and father is known drunk and family beater, even if he attempts to show his son to ‘’break dance’’.
Admittedly the first half of the film is rather slow burning, however what comes in the middle of the film will certainly stick around with you for a long time, and even after what happens (the word brutal is a understatement) it takes a while for the story to recover, which takes the film to a very tied up and neat ending. Still I do like the metaphors with the trees being cut down to make way for new saplings, acting on the idea that the South has a lot of deadly substances which are blighting the lives of so many in the area. This is Cage’s best performance in rather some time – he certain brings a sense of danger to the screen, and an element that he is always ‘’on edge’’, which he hasn’t shown for quite some time. Tye Sheridan is also a very exciting young actor to watch, particularly how he acts around non-actors, it’s clear this young lad has a very solid career ahead of him. While ‘Joe’ might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I doubt you will see a contemporary film which has the usual look or unique take on the American outback like this. Filled with fine performances all around, and certainly an element of danger, this is certainly a film which will deceivably obtain a cult-like status in years to come.