Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Joe: Movie Review


The complexities of Joe over-taken by the worst humanity has to offer.
“Joe” is set deep in the back woods of Texas where the people are lost in a sea of crimes, and where role models and criminals are often one in the same. Joe (Nicolas Cage) is an ex-con living day-to-day managing a road crew and coming home to his girlfriend of the night. Gary (Tye Sheridan) is a 15-year-old boy desperately needing a role model but his father is a lazy, racist, immoral scumbag and he’s left with either Joe or nothing. 2013

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Screenplay by: David Hawkins
Based on the novel by Larry Brown

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan

What sounds like it could be a mix of “Mud” (2012, Tye Sheridan’s last coming-of-age film) and “Prince Avalanche” (2013, director David Gordon Green’s last Texas-set film), ends up playing out very, very differently. The people that inhabit “Joe” (other than young Gary) are the most despicable people you could ever imagine encountering, and actually, you wouldn’t ever imagine encountering them because they are just so far removed from the society most people are familiar with. Racism is alive and well, the desire to smash people’s heads in just for the fun of it is alive and well, and the complacency to do nothing is alive and well.

The character of Joe is the closest we come to a human we could actually stand to watch. After he observes Gary as a hard-working decent young man and that his father is the opposite, Joe is torn between doing the right thing and staying on the straight-and-narrow, and also just figuring out what the right thing is. It’s a decent character-based struggle and Cage plays out the full complexity of Joe’s issues.

Unfortunately, it’s everything that comes before that which makes the choice of nothing the more appealing option in “Joe.” It’s dark and gritty with an atmosphere representing the worst that humanity has to offer. Instead of introducing us to the many complexities of Joe, it instead introduces us to the racism and unflinching violence of small town Texas, and does so as slow as possible to make you sure you realize how depraved it is. The filmmaker is just daring the audience to stop watching. Challenge accepted!

“Joe” doesn’t have any of the humour of the aforementioned “Prince Avalanche” or “Mud”, it doesn’t have any of the intrigue that keeps the mystery alive and interest in the characters like “Mud” had, and any redemption this film may offer comes too late. The atmosphere is there, the character of Joe is there, but everything unsavory of that culture takes over.

Similar Titles:

Mud (2012) - Arkansas, a boat, a tree, two boys, girls, love, snakes and Mud.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) - A story of trashy criminals and dirty cops evolving into one about fathers and sons and life.

Prince Avalanche (2013) - Just a simple conversation between hilarious characters by great actors.

The Iceman (2012) - The Iceman lives up to the name but falls a little short on the potential of the story.