Despite the rough Texas setting, the nasty characters, the complete absence of humour and sentimentality, it's tendency for violence, and it's loose indie approach, Joe is essentially About A Boy.
icolas Cage is the eponymous hothead who does his best to stay out of trouble despite his instincts to do the opposite. He throws himself into work, running a small business that involves poisoning bad trees so they can be chopped down and replaced with more useful ones. Theme alert as Cage takes the hard-working teen Tye Sheridan (Mud) under his wing, doing what he can to keep him out of the way of his drunken father's (Poulter) wayward fists. But down here you don't get into other people's business…
ast year's Prince Avalanche saw director David Gordon Green return to his indie roots after a dalliance with the mainstream - Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter were hit and miss - but that comedy felt like a doodle. The hard-hitting Joe is a more complete film. He can be prone to dropping stuff in despite it not fitting with the rest of the story, like Ronnie Gene Blevins going about shooting people in broad daylight despite a competent police force in the area, and the opening scene, as mesmerising as it might be, feels it would be better off somewhere else.
ut that's nit-picking as Green, shooting Gary Hawkins's script (adapted from Larry Brown’s novel), is rich in setting and character. This is a town that America has forgotten about, where road kill is dinner, where guard dogs are essential to a decent night's sleep, and you don't go to the hospital with a gunshot to the shoulder – just DIY it at home. Green takes his time getting things going, ensuring that this Texan backwater (and the zero hope of escape from) becomes a character in its own right. The cast have to work hard to stand out.
hey do. Nicolas Cage is two for two now - after his surprisingly restrained performance in On Frozen Ground, playing a character who forces himself to be restrained was the way to go. Tye Sheridan too is fulfilling the promise of Mud. But it’s Gary Poulter’s no-goodnik - a stumbling, mumbling, violent alcoholic - that is terrifying. With his dirty pants and crusty beard, it's a lived-in performance, but then Green did cast the local because of these very attributes. The late actor, however, never got to see his performance on the big screen, however, as he died of cancer last year.