Cage delivers an intensely powerful performance as Joe, an ex-con with a hair-trigger temper who is trying to stay out of trouble, making an honest yet meager life for himself, and the unlikeliest of role models. But when he meets a troubled 15-year old homeless boy (Sheridan) in need of help from a violent and destitute father, Joe is faced with the heart-breaking choice of redemption or ruin.
Director David Gordon Green has had quite an impressive resume over the last ten years, and this being 2014, Green is showing no signs of weakening or bowing down to the execs of Hollywood any time soon. Green’s resume includes ‘Pineapple Express‘, ‘Eastbound and Down‘, ‘Your Highness‘, and the more recent drama ‘Prince Avalanche‘. He also produced the gritty ‘Compliance‘. Green seemed to step away from the likes of Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, andDanny McBride, and made an unrelenting yet beautiful movie with ‘Joe‘, which is based on a novel of the same name by Larry Brown from 1991.
‘Joe‘ is fueled by the incredible performances of Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan (‘Mud‘) as a man with troubled past who is struggling to keep on the straight and narrow while a young boy with a truly terrible home life is looking for something more to life than being beaten by his father. Green captures some truly dark moments in the deep south where this takes place. So dark that I imagine some people might walk out of the theater, but the redemption and relationship between Joe (Cage) and Gary (Sheridan) is something to be treasured and watched for many years to come. Joe is a man who back in his younger days had a big temper, which got him trouble with the law quite a bit. But now that he is almost 50, he has calmed down and runs a small business in a hillbilly town where he and a team of day laborers poison trees for a lumber company in order to replant stronger trees.
Although Joe is is a kind man to those around him, we see he is constantly walking a thin line where he could snap at any moment and become a raging lunatic. But Joe seems to have the respect of everyone in town including the sheriff. Meanwhile, Gary lives with his horribly abusive father Wade (Gary Poulter), his mother and younger mute sister in a condemned house in the middle of nowhere. Wade is not above selling his daughter for sex, abusing his kids or wife, or even comitting murder for so much as a drink. Gary wants more out of life than being at the bottom end of his father’s abuse, and as he is wandering through the woods, he comes upon Joe and his crew and asks for a job. For the first time for what seems like in many years, Joe takes Gary under his wing and can tell he comes from a very bad home. Joe can’t figure this out for himself either as he can’t seem to have a good relationship with his on again off again girlfriend who he can’t commit to. But it seems that he can fully commit to be there for Gary. Maybe he sees a version of himself in him and doesn’t want him to take the same path he did.
Things seem to be going well up until Gary convinces Joe to give his dad a job, which doesn’t last too long as Wade doesn’t have the chemical DNA to work any job, but is not above taking Gary’s hard earned money to drink. To make matters worse, Joe and Gary both had a run in with Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins, who looks a lot like Peter Sarsgaard), who is a local dumb criminal with a big scar on his face. Willie is always out looking for trouble, but he can’t seem to back up his words until he grabs a gun with his other redneck henchmen. ‘Joe‘ plays out like a very dark coming-of-age movie where two people seeking some sort of connection to do good in life, finally find what they're looking for. Joe teaches Gary about women, smoking, and driving, but has to keep his temper under control when dealing with Willie and Wade, or else he will explode. This all leads to a very ‘hard-to-watch’ climax that is shot perfectly and beautifully.
Cage throws himself into Joe’s character as we see his struggle to be the kind, funny, and generous man that he is, but he teeters on that rocky ledge of becoming a maniac, but not-over-the-top as we’ve seen Cage in other films. And Sheridan is still proving he is one of the best child actors out there today. Gary Poulter is stunning in this role, but ends on a very sour story, as Poulter was actually a homeless man living in Austin, Texas who died a couple of weeks after filming. His body was found in a foot or two of water after a night of heavy drinking. It’s a very sad story, but Green’s decision to cast this man as Wade is genius. ‘Joe‘ will knock the socks off of you, it's one of the best films of the year so far, and might be the best Nic Cage movies of all time. ‘Joe‘ won’t soon leave your thoughts, it's one hell of a fine film.
'Joe' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This gritty film looks beautiful and that's an accomplishment, considering just how dark and brooding the actual story is. Detail is very vivid and sharp, but still possesses that filmic look with a very fine layer of grain. In other words, this image doesn't look like it's been through the digital car-wash. It looks natural and organic all the way through.
Closeups reveal excellent skin detail with individual facial hairs, scars, dirt, and makeup blemishes standing out quite nicely. The wider shots give a lot of depth, especially in the scenes where trees are being poisoned. Colors are vibrant and pop off screen with nice warm Earthy tones. The browns, blues, oranges, and yellows show very nicely and are well-saturated. The skin tones are natural and the black levels are deep and inky. This video presentation is outstanding.
This release has a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. This audio track packs quite a punch when it counts and may sometimes catch you off guard. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand throughout. It's perfectly situated on the center channel and at times has some excellent directionality. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, or hissing.
The sound effects and ambient noises were always clear and robust. The gunshots packed a powerful punch as well as the nature sounds of animals, the wind, and small lakes could be heard with clarity in the surrounds. The score always added to the mood and tone of each scene and never drowned out any dialogue or sound effects. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range was very wide. This audio presentation is excellent.
Audio Commentary - Director David Gordon Green, Actor Brian D. Mays, and Composer David Wingo make up this great commentary track. Green takes center stage as he discusses how he shot and came up with the idea of 'Joe'. He offers a lot of background information on casting, and shots he setup. Mays discusses working with Tye Sheridan and Nic Cage while Wingo offers some insight on the film and his score.
The Making of 'Joe' (HD, 12 mins.) - Cast and crew interviews discussing the making of the film. Green talks about each of the characters, the novel, and some of the key scenes. Cage discusses in depth his character. Even Gary Poulter is interviewed and shows how much fun he had on set. There is some on-set footage as well here.
The Long Gravel Drive: The Origins of 'Joe' (HD, 16 mins.) - An interview with writer Gary Hawkins, discussing the late author of 'Joe', Larry Brown and his work, focusing on how he came up with the story of 'Joe'.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 3 mins.) - There are two deleted scenes here, both of which feature Wade, played by Gary Poulter. Nothing of real importance, but worth watching none-the-less.
'Joe' is an amazing film containing one of Nic Cage's best roles. Green has made a beautiful film, with excellent performances and a truly dark and sadistic story line, but you can't help but look away. I want Nic Cage to get an award for his performance here. The video and audio presentations are both top notch and the extras are very good. This comes highly recommended!