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). The film might have had a limited theatrical release in the UK but it's definitely recommended.
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