Nicolas Cage gives a rare internalised performance in this atmospheric drama, which has a stronger sense of its location than it does of its story. It's been so long since Cage has been this good that we've almost forgotten that he can do it (see Adaptation or of course Leaving Las Vegas). And he shares the screen beautifully with rising-star Tye Sheridan (Mud) in this strikingly observational tale about second chances.
It's set in the rural South, where Joe (Cage) is an ex-con who has rebuilt his life as a contractor. His big job at the moment is to kill trees on land being developed outside a small town. While Joe is haunted by his past, he is respected by his work crew. His only companions are his faithful dog and a prostitute (Adriene Mishler) who serves as his makeshift girlfriend. Then the 15-year-old Gary (Sheridan) arrives looking for work, and Joe takes him under his wing. Gary's father G-Daawg (Gary Poulter) is a waste-of-space drunk who causes trouble everywhere he goes, leaving the family to live squatting in a falling-down house. Joe can identify with this troubled situation, and Gary needs a real father figure, so the two begin to rely on each other.
This is about as far as the film's narrative goes, apart from a side strand that cranks into gear to push things into a somewhat overwrought final act. This relates to Joe's violent past refusing to fade away, as a local thug (Ronnie Gene Blevins) continually goads Joe to revive a long-simmering feud. Which of course threatens the delicate balance of his positive friendship with Gary. Cage and Sheridan are terrific as the soft-spoken tough-guy mentor and his fiercely determined protege who help put each others' lives into focus. And the surrounding actors are strikingly authentic, especially non-actor Poulter as the relentless loser G-Daawg, a performance made even more poignant with the news that Poulter died while living on the streets shortly after filming finished.
Continue reading: Joe Review
Al Klein is a used car salesman who works with his best friend and business partner Ash Martini at Diamond Motors. Together, the duo utilise every selling method in existence from complimenting the customer to telling white lies - and it's not always morally sound. Klein misses his former wife Barbara and wishes he could spent more time with his high school graduate son Freddy. Luckily for him, Freddy wants the same thing and decides to drop his college prospects and become a salesman like his father. He moves in with Al but the pair soon find themselves under the wrath of Barbara, who wishes for a more successful life for her son than what Al could offer and is desperate that Freddy doesn't turn out like him. As much as Al loves having him around, he is the one that needs to decide what's best for Freddy.
Continue: Small Time
Joe Ransom is an ex-convict who's been inside several times for his violent behaviour. Now trying to keep out of trouble, he takes on a new job - but going straight is more difficult than it first appears when he finds himself desperate to protect the people he cares about. He meets a 15-year-old boy named Gary, who's just moved into town with his family and is looking for a job. Joe agrees to take him on but soon discovers that he's not the only one struggling to get through life. After witnessing Gary's drunken father beating him, he's desperate to step in and help, but knows a confrontation will only lead to another lengthy stretch in jail. When Gary's family issues escalate, however, Joe can't help but lay his life down for that boy's family - but just how far will he take it this time?
'Joe' is a touching drama about redemption and the concept of right and wrong and is based on the 1991 novel of the same name by Larry Brown. It has been directed by David Gordon Green ('Eastbound & Down', 'Pineapple Express', 'George Washington') with a screenplay adapted by Gary Hawkins ('The Rough South of Harry Crews'). Having won the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation Special Award and the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, 'Joe' is scheduled to be released in UK cinemas on July 25th 2014.