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JOE (review)

Review by Elizabeth Robbins
Produced by David Gordon Green, Lisa Muskat, 
Derrick Tseng, Christopher Woodrow
Screenplay by Gary Hawkins
Based on Joe by Larry Brown
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, 
Heather Kafka, Ronnie Gene Blevins, 
Sue Rock, Adriene Mishler, 
Gary Poulter, Dana Freitag

After watching Joe, you wonder why Nicholas Cage ever became a serious action star.

He began his career as an indie darling, and it is where he excels. Cage slips into this indie film with ease, looking like he truly belongs.

Cage is the glue that ties the stories of people in this small, rural town together. His flawed character is the kind of man who would die for his friend, and kick your teeth in if you cross him.

Based on a novel by Larry Brown, Joe is the story of Joe Ransom (Cage), an ex-con who is trying to stay on the straight and narrow path.

What little normal life he has is threatened when he befriends a 15 yr old boy, Gary (Tye Sheridon, Mud). To say Gary’s family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. Gary’s father, Wade, is an abusive drunk whose antics keeps his family on the road. With his family drifting from town to town, Gary looks for work. No school, no friends, Gary does what he can to support his family and protect his mother and sister.

Joe gives Gary a job, and finds him to be a good kid and a hard worker. As friendship develops between the two, Joe finds it more and more difficult to turn a blind eye to Gary’s situation. Joe eventually steps in to help Gary, and the consequences of his actions are dire.

I spent the majority of the film amazed and disgusted by Gary Poulter’s performance of Gary’s father, Wade a.k.a. G-Dawg. His performance of a broken, angry man felt real. The scenes between Gary and his father are intense. I found myself always waiting for the next blow, whether it was coming or not. I was surprised to later discover that Gary Poulter was not a trained actor, but a local, homeless man that director David Gordon Green had given the role.

Green masterfully directs his supporting characters to flesh out the world that Joe and Gary inhabit. The combination of Tim Orr’s cinematography and Jeff McIlwain’s music paints a beautiful, rustic background to contrast the violence of the story.

It makes every blow feel more painful.

Joe is a hard film to watch, but a worthwhile experience for any independent film buff.

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