Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Gary Poulter, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Adriene Mishler
Running Time: 1hr 57mins
Plot: Texas hard case Joe (Nicolas Cage) has more than his share of troubles, but when a young man (Tye Sheridan) in desperate need moves into town he is torn between his desire to help and his own violent history.
If you thought Matthew McConaughey lit an awful lot of cigarettes in True Detective, think again. On the subject of Lt. Romcom, star of 2012’s grimy rural drama Mud, his child co-actor Tye Sheridan also appears in Joe – it’s only his third film, but he’s growing fast. Of course, working alongside the matchless Nicolas Cage, Joe’s unpredictable lead, is bound to have an effect on a young man. Shedding blood, sweat and tears as the films titular anti-hero, Nic Cage puts on a powerhouse display of humanity; in a year’s time you could well be seeing a trailer for a film called ‘Kill, Again’ or ‘Taxidermist Witch Doctor’ being top-billed by ‘double Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage’.
Joe is a non-reforming alcoholic criminal who runs a sub-legal tree felling business in the backwoods of Texas. Despite his flaws he tries to earn his keep as honourably as possible, which has gained him the gratitude and respect of his tight-knit road crew. When teenager Gary Jones (Tye Sheridan) shows up asking for a job, Joe consents against his better judgement. The boy sets hard to work but his caustic vagrant of a father, Wade (played by Gary Poulter, a genuine homeless man and non-actor, now deceased) abuses and steals from him, bringing on a rage in Joe that he cannot simply sink with a bottle of bourbon.
‘’Heeey Joe, where you going with that gun…’’ Such is the darkness shrouding the ex-con protagonist that he could easily be the mythical subject of a Hendrix song or a Johnny Cash ballad. Though you see but a little of what the man is capable of, one only has to observe Joe’s behaviour among company or the savagery of his American bulldog –essentially an embodiment of his id- to know that he has done some very bad things in the past; hurting people for money seems most likely. There is at the same time a kindness yet in him and, struggle as he might to hide his hurts with fury, he confides in his muse that he has an opportunity for redemption in preserving the ‘good heart’ of the troubled young man he’s taken under his wing.
In the space of two films, David Gordon Green has blown off comedy (Pineapple Express) and skipped along ‘Coming of Age’ indies (Prince Avalanche) to arrive at a much more visceral kind of direction. Besides the obviousness of the setting and the mirrored boy-man storylines, comparisons between Joe and Mud crop up again in their haunting ambient soundtracks, both being scored by David Wingo and Jeff McIlwain. Joe is much the better film, however; it is harrowing, sorrowful and totally unflinching in its depiction of human depravity.