Joe Film Review
Moody and atmospheric, Joe is a strikingly atypical entry in once-impressive actor Nicholas Cage’s recent film history, proving the man has still clearly got something to give.With angry men seemingly out to get both of them, the lives of grizzly bear-like Joe and a disillusioned 15-year old boy collide in some unnamed backwater town in the deep south. The gruff ex-con runs a dodgy tree-poisoning crew on behalf of lumber companies who need the trees to be dead before they can come in and plant new, more highly sought, pine trees. Struggling to escape his alcohol-shattered home, the young kid Gary finds work with Joe’s small operation, and some measure of friendship too, as the scumbags and vultures – and voracious cops – close in around them. Based on Larry Brown’s nineties book of the same name, director David Gordon Green’s Joe is a sweaty, intoxicating affair which broods with a palpable intensity matched only by the evocative score. Although Cage is on fiery, bomb-waiting-to-go-off form here, he is more than matched by an eclectic cast.
A talented group of actors, including Tye Sheridan and the late Gary Poulter who, by all accounts, was basically playing his former self, are given free reign with what often feels like perfectly managed improvisational flourishes. Bathed – almost drowned – in suffocating darkness, Joe is a frequently oppressive, even slightly haunting piece which knows just how to get under your skin. One has to wonder why Cage is perpetually slumming it in shoddy DTV action movies when he is still capable of this kind of work. Perhaps it is all just a paycheck for him, but a few more Joe’s under hit belt and he may pull off the same kind of career comeback that McConaughey did with similar brooding deep south mystery dramas like Mud and The Paperboy (the former also co-starring Sheridan).
Joe Blu-ray Picture QualityJoe’s Region B-locked UK release sports a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is frequently striking, with impressive close-ups, skin textures, clothing weaves and background touches – all courtesy of the Arri Alexa digital cinematography.
The natural setting and frequently beautiful cinematography leave this an oftentimes demo-worthy video presentation.
The colour scheme is dictated by the natural tones on offer; with a beautiful autumnal quality that pervades the setting; the woodland background becoming very much a character of its own, replete with dominant browns, greens and greys; shafts of sunlight beaming through the cracks. Black levels are strong and deep, allowing for some impressive darker sequences, boasting excellent shadow detail. With no digital defects to speak of – no artefacts, banding or crush – this is a commendable, naturally demo-worthy offering.
Joe Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is similarly impressive, although not quite fed the same material with which to be elevated to the level of demo territory. Dialogue-dominant, the spoken words come across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the frontal array throughout the proceedings. Effects are all naturally-derived, and the ambience crafted in the outdoor-dominated setting is authentic and often palpable, with crinkling leaves, blowing wind and – during some more evocative stormy moments – heavy rain, allowing for welcome and frequently very atmospheric surround usage. The LFE channels doesn’t come into play as much as you’d hope for – not that it would with this material – but the evocative score provides a healthy source of consistent background material for the track to deliver, often dominating the proceedings with its brooding intensity.
Whilst not always demo material, the powerful score alone elevates this solid presentation.
Joe Blu-ray ExtrasFor some reason the already small selection of extra features which adorned the US disc has been yet further stripped back here, with no sign of the Director/Composer/Actor Audio Commentary, nor Origins of Joe Featurette, and merely the short and slightly derivative EPK-style Making-Of Featurette intact, along with the film’s Trailer.
Joe Blu-ray VerdictThe small, low-key, yet intoxicatingly intense Joe is a marked comeback for DTV cowboy Nicholas Cage, who puts in one of his best performances in years. Shot with beautiful natural cinematography, and boasting a haunting and powerfully evocative score, this is well worth checking out.
This Region B-locked UK Blu-ray boasts the same excellent video and very good audio that adorned the US disc (they even appear to have ported over the alternative 2.0 channel track too) so there is no excuse for the lack of extras; with a Commentary and Featurette MIA on this inferior release. Worth checking out, but those interested in adding it to their collection may well want to source the Region A-locked disc instead.
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