HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:83
Who would have thought that Nicholas Cage could actually act again after all the trash movies that man has put out over the last few years? Down on his luck financially the man has taken any job that’s come his way and played that same character that goes bat bonkers in every film. Here with “Joe” we actually see Cage give a rather nuanced performance that is incredibly restrained from his normal antics. There is one scene in the movie where we see the crazy peak its head out, but it’s well within the context of the gritty story and plays well. After chewing over it a while I can’t help but compare it with “Mud”. It’s got Tye Sheridan playing another down and out boy and Nicholas Cage plays a very similar character, a man with a troubled past who’s no hero, but still has a code of honor that allows him to take the main character under his protection. While there are some similarities I really ended up liking “Joe” a bit more out of the two films, as its gritty realism trumps some of the “Hollywood” aspects of “Mud”. Both share some similarities in plot structure, but the way it plays out in “Joe” is more believable and a bit more tragic in nature.
Gary (Tye Sheridan) is a drifter, only son of a washed up drunk named Wade (Gary Poulter), trying to keep a roof over his mother and sister’s head. Beaten daily by Wade, Gary slogs on, willing to do whatever it takes to help out the more innocent members of his family. Gary doesn’t much hope till he lands a job killing trees with local ruffian Joe (Nicholas Cage). Joe is a hard man, a man who’s made his share of mistakes, and still makes many of them, but a man who will shoot straight with you and give as much as he takes. Not wanting to get involved with the family issues, Joe watches the family drama from a distance, obviously disgruntled but not wanting to get involved. Doing his best to give the hard working Gary a job, he allows the boy to work with the men, as long as he pulls his weight. As the story unfolds and unlikely mentorship starts to form. Admiring the young boy’s ethics and stick-to-itiveness, Joe allows the slightly softer side that he keeps hidden out for the boys benefit.
As much as Joe is a laid back guy, you realize that he’s only so laid back due to the fact that if he lets himself lose control he’ll end up doing something that he’ll regret. The darker side of him is barely under the surface and it terrifies him as much as it terrifies those he unleashes it upon. As much as he wants to keep it under control, watching Gary get abused by his old man causes his bile to rise and his temper to shorten. Soon enough Wade does something so horrible that it brings out the protector in Joe and dog has to be let off his chain.
I had a really good time actually watch Nick Cage act once more. Seeing the more restrained character of Joe was so refreshing compared to his looney bin roles that he’s so famous for. “Joe” is simplistic at first look, but the layers of the onion start peeling back as the film progresses. We have the classic boy down on his luck and the abusive father, then we have the rough man with a heart of gold who sticks up for the boy and turns his life around. The twist happens when you realize that Joes doesn’t have a heart of gold. He’s a messed up 48 year old, who’s continued on with the same childish acts that caused so much trouble when he was younger, just a bit harder and a bit more restrained. What makes his so much more complex is that while he’s not a GOOD man, he’s an honest man who will shoot straight and do what he thinks is right. That means when he sees a wrong being committed and feels responsible, you can bet your life he’ll put himself in harm’s way to make sure that the wrong is made right. The characters are gritty, they’re flawed and they ring of that old backwoods desperation. We have Joe who’s still a man child really. Gary, the 15 year old who’s not really a boy as he’s had to take on the main responsibilities of a man with the absence of a real father. His mother is an enabler and his sister is caught in the middle. While I really liked the character of Joe in a part pitying, part like, part disliking sort of way, it was Wade (Gary’s father) who really took home the cake. You start out pitying the old man as he’s just a washed up drunk. You see him beat Gary and dislike him for his violence, but you see that lonely desperation that happens to so many drunks and washouts which fills you with pity. However, that pity and dislike turns into all out loathing as you watch the lengths the despicable old man is willing to go for his addiction. However, during that last moment of his screen time, you see the recognition on his face over what he’s done and just for one moment that sense of pity comes back as you see the look in his eyes.
“Joe” is gritty, it’s tragic, and there are not really any GREAT role models for Gary, but it paints a rather realistic painting of some of those old backwoods situations. Joe isn’t a great man, but he imparts upon Gary the best qualities that he has in an effort to make sure the boy doesn’t make the same mistakes he does. It’s a bit of a bitter sweet movie, but it was so well done that it lifted it above that sense of depression and allows you to see that even in the darkest of circumstances there is always some glimmer of hope, some way to pull yourself out of the mess you been given in life and make something better of yourself.
Rated R for violence, disturbing material, language and some sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=20802[/img]Much like “Mud” the film is set in the backwoods community where there’s not a lot of wealth, and the film shows some rather earthy and muddy color tones. Lots of browns and greys, with dark scenes punctuated only by the bleak looking light bulbs of a rundown shack. With that being said, there are some decent showings of greens and blues as the forest scenes look appropriately bright and cheerful. Detail level is very high, sporting a beautiful looking image. Wade’s dirty clothes and scrubby beard are replicated with pinpoint accuracy and the bruises and blood marks on Gary’s abused face show up with disturbing clarity. Nature shots look exceptionally beautiful and showcase the fantastic cinematography to a T. Black levels are excellent, but do show some crush and a few scenes that look a bit washed out due to the color palate. Nothing too wild, just a little nitpick, but one that draws the picture away from superb. The movie looks bleak in many ways, but still is able to showcase some fantastic clarity and is an excellently encoded image that doesn't show any digital artifacting.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=20810[/img]The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a vibrant and pulsating track for a drama film. A lot of the movie is dialogue driven, which shows up just fine on my system. Great clarity in the vocals and the front soundstage is superb. However, there is a very solid amount of surround usage in the backwoods setting, allowing for lots of tree cracking, road noise and gunshots to reverberate from all directions. The amount of detailed little background sounds was impressive indeed, for while there isn’t a wild amount of action going on, the nuances of a wooded setting come through fantastically. Directionality is quite good as well, for we can hear a punch solidly in the left ear and hear the scream of a bartender coming from the rear with deadly accuracy. To top it all off there is actually quite a bit of LFE throughout the film, adding a nice low end that throbs and pulsates with the score. Definitely a solid way to round out the presentation and one that is great for home theater.
• Deleted Scenes
• The Making of "Joe" Featurette
• The Long Gravel Drive: The Original "Joe" Featurette
• Commentary with Director David Gordon Green, Composer David Winge and Actor Brian D. Mays
“Joe” is that weird mixture of gritty and pleasant, as it shows dark men, living in dark times and showing that things don’t always turn out as we planned. However, there is that glimmer of hope throughout the whole film, telling us that no matter how bad it gets, there is the right thing and the wrong thing to do in all circumstances. Director David Green used to be a director that would try to cut the pain by adding lots of humor, but as with his previous film “Prince Avalanche” he allows the gritty darkness to stay at that level and show the pain as it actually is instead of trying to cut the sting of it with levity. I definitely give the film a recommendation for drama lovers, for with the great acting and the great audio/video it’s a film that’s definitely worth checking out.
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Gary Poulter
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Gary Hawkins
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Blu-ray Release Date: June 17th 2014
Buy Joe Blu-ray on Amazon
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