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Joe (Nicolas Cage) - DVD Review

Joe

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DAVID Gordon Green is nothing if not eclectic as a director, boasting a CV that may include high-profile comedies such as Pineapple Express and Your Higness, but also some of the most interesting independent American films of recent years.

He shot to prominence with All The Real Girls, followed that up with the excellent Undertow and, of late, has delivered the critically-acclaimed Prince Avalanche and now Joe.

Rooted in the same deep southern American traditions as the likes of Mud and sharing more than a passing resemblance to early Terrence Malick, this atmospheric thriller also provides Nicolas Cage with the perfect platform to provide a potent reminder of his star power as an actor.

Adapted from Larry Brown’s novel, the story focuses on honest-living, hot-tempered ex-con Joe Ransom (Cage), who is trying to suppress his instincts for trouble until he meets a troubled kid, Gary (Mud‘s Tye Sheridan) who forces him to make a stand for something right for a change.

Gary problems stem from from a reprobate, alcoholic dad (Gary Poulter) with a strong capacity for violence but extend to one of Joe’s own foes, so it isn’t long before Joe finds himself in hot water with the law for stepping up and unleashing his core instincts.

Green’s film may be slow-burning and a little too downbeat for mainstream tastes, but it’s a riveting character study that maintains the core elements of Brown’s novel (grit married to emotion).

Cage, in particular, is a mesmerising presence – his Joe resembling a human volcano whose eruptions are as violent and destructive as they are spectacular. The actor expertly conveys this troubled soul, capturing the humanity that lies within, as well as the beast that can be unleashed. And his relationship with Gary (similarly well-played by the rapidly emerging Sheridan) is both gentle amusing and touching.

Poulter, meanwhile, delivers an exercise in pure evil – his vile father a truly sickening creation whose dark presence lurks throughout the film.

Green also imbues the film with a sustained air of menace and foreboding, coating it in an air of unpredictability that makes for a largely unsettling feel. It means you really root for good to prevail without necessarily being sure that it will. The bittersweet conclusion is therefore all the more memorable and supremely well delivered by everyone concerned.

Joe is therefore a deeply enriching experience: a film surrounded by violence that contains a strong morality and a quality of performance that ensure its main themes resonate for some time afterwards.

Green’s reputation looks only certain to be advanced while Cage needs to do a lot more of this kind of material.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: October 6, 2014