Hi, Bryan Here….
Director David Gordon Green has had quite an impressive resume over the last ten years, and this being 2014, Green is showing no signs of weakening or bowing down to the execs of Hollywood any time soon. Green’s resume includes ‘Pineapple Express‘, ‘Eastbound and Down‘, ‘Your Highness‘, and the more recent drama ‘Prince Avalanche‘. He also produced the gritty thriller ‘Compliance‘. Green seemed to step away from the likes of Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, and Danny McBride, and made an unrelenting yet beautiful movie with ‘Joe‘, which is based on a novel by Larry Brown of the same name from 1991.
‘Joe‘ is fueled by the incredible performances of Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan (‘Mud‘) as a man with troubled past is struggling to keep on the straight and narrow while a young boy with a truly terrible home life is looking for something more to life than being beaten by his father. Green captures some truly dark moments in the deep south where this takes place. So much so, that I imagine some people might walk out of the theater, but the redemption and relationship between Joe (Cage) and Gary (Sheridan) is something to be treasured and watch for many years to come. Joe is a man who back in his younger days, had a big temper, which got him trouble with the law quite a bit. But now that he is almost 50, he has calmed down and runs a small business in a hillbilly town where he and a team of day laborers poison trees for a lumber company in order to replant stronger trees.
Although Joe is is a kind man to those around him, we see he is constantly on a thin line where he could snap at any moment and become a raging lunatic. But Joe seems to have the respect of everyone in town including the sheriff. Meanwhile, Gary lives with his horribly abusive father Wade (Gary Poulter), his mother and younger mute sister in a condemned house in the middle of nowhere. Wade is not above selling his daughter for sex, abusing his kids or wife, or even murder for so much as a drink. Gary is wanting more out of life than being at the bottom end of his father’s abuse, and as he is wandering through the woods, he comes upon Joe and his crew and asks for a job. For the first time for what seems like in many years, Joe takes Gary under his wing and can tell his comes from a very bad home. Joe can’t figure this out for himself either as he can’t seem to have a good relationship with his on again off again girlfriend that he can’t commit to. But it seem that he can fully commit to be there for Gary. Maybe he sees a version of himself in him and doesn’t want him to take the same path as he acts as a father figure to Gary, which Gary is desperately wanting.
Things seem to be going well up until Gary convinces Joe to give his dad a job, which doesn’t last too long as Wade doesn’t have the chemical DNA to work any job, but is not above taking Gary’s hard earned money to drink. To make matters worse, Joe and Gary both had a run in with Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins, who looks a lot like Peter Sarsgaard), who is a local dumb criminal with a big scar on his face. Willie is out looking for trouble always, but can’t seem to back up his word until he grabs a gun with his other redneck henchmen. ‘Joe‘ plays out like a very dark coming-of-age movie where two people who seeking some sort of connection to do good in life, finally find what they are looking for. Joe teaches Gary about women, smoking, and driving, but has to keep his temper under control when dealing with Willie and Wade, or else he will explode, much like his chained up pitbull who lives under his house. This all leads to a very ‘hard-to-watch’ climax that is shot perfectly and beautifully.
Cage throws himself into Joe’s character as we see his struggle to be the kind, funny, and generous man that he is, but teeters on that rocky ledge of becoming a maniac, but not-over-the-top as we’ve seen Cage in other films. And Sheridan is still proving he is one of the best child actors out there today. Gary Poulter is stunning in this role, but ends on a very sour story, as Poulter was actually a homeless man living in Austin, Texas who died a couple of weeks after filming. His body was found in a foot or two of water after a night of heavy drinking. It’s a very sad story, but Green’s decision to cast this man as Wade is genius. ‘Joe‘ will knock the socks off of you and is quite one of the best films of this year so far and has quickly made the best Nic Cage movies of all time. ‘Joe‘ won’t soon leave your thoughts and is one hell of a fine film.
5 out of 5 STARS
And be sure to check out Suzanne Loranc’s interview with actor Tye Sheridan from the film by CLICKING HERE!
– Bryan Kluger