Joe (Roadside Attractions)
Rated R for violence, disturbing material, language and some strong sexual content
Directed by David Gordon Green.
What the heck happened to Nicolas Cage? He used to be a very funny actor, a celebrated dramatic actor…he won an Oscar, for Pete’s sake. I blame Michael Bay. Following the success of his fame and acclaim for Leaving Las Vegas (Oscar win), Cage was lured like a moth to the flame of becoming a superstar action hero, with films like The Rock and Con Air. Years later after some financial trouble, Cage has become sort of a cliché unto himself – now appearing in “Nicolas Cage” movies. They are the kind of films reserved for someone to drone out a stream of ‘tough-guy’ dialogue, followed by spurts of crazed fury (Drive Angry, Tresspass, Seeking Justice, Bangkok Dangerous, Ghost Rider, etc., etc., etc….). Sure, there have been a few highlights along the way (Adaptation, National Treasure), but perhaps necessity has required Cage to take on more roles than anyone should. Enter Joe, an independent film about an ex-con who struggles with helping a homeless boy – starring: Nicolas Cage.
Cage play the title role Joe, a man who manages a group of workers who poison trees so that they can be legally chopped down by landowners who want to replant useable lumber. Joe meets Gary (Tye Sheridan), boy who lives in an abandoned home with his abusive, alcoholic father Wade (Gary Poulter) along with his mother and sister. Joe hires Gary to work on the tree crew, but Wade takes all the money he earns to buy booze. Meanwhile, Joe must contend with an old rival (Ronnie-Gene Blevins) out for revenge, while avoiding trouble with the law.
Joe must decide whether to risk his own life to help Gary, or to stay in safe seclusion.
Joe is a very good film featuring a worthy performance from Cage, who has apparently rediscovered the art of subtlety and grace. Cage’s performance is his best in years, and leaves room for hope that his ‘Cage-rage’ movies may become a thing of the past (a quick search of his IMDB page for pending projects suggests otherwise). Some have suggested that Joe might launch Cage back into relevancy, much like Mud did for Matthew McConaughey last year (ironically also co-starring Tye Sheridan in a similar role). Gary Poulter, who plays Gary’s awful dad also deserves credit for an outstanding performance. Poulter was actually homeless when given the role, and had struggled with alcoholism for years. Sadly, he was found dead lying in a ditch in September 2013.
Another surprise is director David Gordon Green, whose efforts in Joe almost made me forget a few of his cinematic atrocities, with distinction for 2011’s atrocious Your Highness and the raunchy Pineapple Express (2008). Let’s hope he sticks to more independent fare in the future.
Joe is rated R for very violent and sexual scenes, so don’t head to the theater expecting to see National Treasure 3 (probably coming in 2016).