Friday, April 11, 2014

Movie with Abe: Joe

Directed by David Gordon Green
Released April 11, 2014

Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage was an Oscar-winning actor. His performance in 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas” as a suicidal alcoholic earned him the coveted trophy, and he contended again for his terrific dual role in 2002’s “Adaptation.” Since then, Cage’s acting has taken a backseat to his horrendous hairstyle in most of his films. He has not selected particularly challenging roles, most often opting for brainless action flicks. Fortunately, his latest film, “Joe,” showcases what is easily his best performance in a decade, enabling him to tackle a complex character as part of a deeply involving story.

Cage stars as the title character, an ex-con who drives his truck full of workers out every day into the woods to tag trees to be killed and cut down in advance of development construction. Joe takes care of his people, demanding that they work hard but treating them fairly. His newest and brightest employee comes in the form of Gary (Tye Sheridan), an excitable young boy who also brings along the burden of his alcoholic deadbeat father Wade (Gary Poulter). Joe clearly likes and respects Gary, and forms a relationship with the kid who is making the best of a truly miserable situation.

“Joe” follows in the style of films like “Mud” and “Winter’s Bone” which begin from a relatively stable, calm point and gradually transform into something dark and unsettling. That process is managed excellently by director David Gordon Green, whose previous credits include “Prince Avalanche” and “Pineapple Express.” The script by Gary Hawkins, based on the 1991 novel by Larry Brown, is purposefully sparse in dialogue and weaves an extremely compelling narrative. Its plot is gripping and takes its audience on an engaging and powerful ride.

Most of all, “Joe” is driven by its performance. Cage draws out Joe’s self-destructive nature, emphasizing his temper as an enemy just as great as the man who wishes to get revenge on him for a condescending slap Joe delivered at a bar. Cage demonstrates that he is still a great actor, and just needs roles like this to show off his talent. Just as impressive is seventeen-year-old Sheridan, who appeared previously in “Mud” and “The Tree of Life.” This is another mature role and performance from a young actor with a very bright future ahead of him. Sheridan’s sunny nature contrasts Cage’s reserved demeanor perfectly, making them a terrific pair in this rewarding, seriously worthwhile film.


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