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Joe: David Gordon Green Goes Back to His Roots

February 9, 2015

Joe Movie Poster

Joe is the type of film where you can smell the booze and feel every punch. It is atmospheric, grimy and knows exactly what it is. David Gordon Green has proven to be a master of small town eclecticism and after The Sitter and Your Highness it is good to see him go back to character pieces. Joe makes you remember that this is the same guy who directed All the Real Girls, Prince Avalanche, George Washington and Snow Angels. The biggest difference between Joe and Green’s other films is that you feel the dirt, sweat and blood in this book adaptation and it leaves feeling as if you did a day of work on Joe’s crew.

The film revolves around a complicated man named Joe (Nicolas Cage). He is an ex-con with a big temper and ambitions of not letting it wreck his life. Joe runs a crew that poisons trees so that a company can legally cut them down and plant other trees. He is fair to his workers and they have a respect for the complicated man.  His temper puts him in some dangerous cross hairs as he is constantly hounded by police and strategically shoulder shot by a maniac wanting revenge. Joe’s biggest problem is that he has ambition in a lost world. He doesn’t belong among the hopeless inhabitants of the small Texas town yet has only himself to blame. He wants to do the right thing but he continually gets caught up in violent situations. For instance, he gets himself shot because of a single slap he through in a bar. The slap was most likely justified but his bad habits will catch up to him.

Joe Nicolas Cage

One day he meets Gary (Tye Sheridan) a homeless teenager who wants some work. Joe employs him and is quickly impressed by his willingness and work ethic. The problem is that Gary’s father Wade (Gary Poulter) is a monster of a man whose antics force his family to remain drifters. He is vile, drunk and the human embodiment of a poisonous snake. Poulter was discovered on the streets of Austin, Texas and died shortly after filming completed. Much like his character Gary had a history of arrests and alcoholism that made him perfect for the role. His non-acting adds an authenticity to the character that is frighteningly real. Poulter adds a uniqueness to the role because he imbues Wade with dancing chops, sly humor and legit menace.

Joe Tye Sheridan

Watching Joe makes you realize that Nicolas Cage is capable of great work. If you’ve watched Raising Arizona, Matchstick Men, Adaptation, Kick-Ass, Bad Lieutenant, The Rock and Bringing Out the Dead you know that he can be magnetic on-screen. Cage brings a restrained seen it all personality to Joe. He bulked up and creates a believable tough guy who wants to do the right thing.. You do not want to square off against Joe and that is a testament to Cage’s performance. There have been articles wishing he would have been nominated for an Oscar and I hope he will use this role as springboard to bigger and better things.

Joe is a bleak story of redemption. It ain’t pretty and the violence, sex and mayhem will turn off many viewers. However, Joe is a welcome back to form for David Gordon Green and Nicolas Cage and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2015 1:49 pm

    Good review. It was nice to see Gordon Green, as well as Cage, back to doing what they’ve done best in the past. Let’s hope both parties keep at it.

  2. davecrewe permalink
    February 9, 2015 9:58 pm

    I really loved this when I first saw it, though it diminished a little in my memory thereafter. Great film, though I don’t know if I’d quite put Cage as an Oscar contender. Nice review!

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