Thursday 16 October 2014


I think it would be fair to say that no other actor on this earth is as unique and interesting as Nicolas Cage. As well as this he’s won an Academy Award (for Leaving Las Vegas) and starred in some of the greatest action films of all time; The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off. Even the terrible Cage films have something special about them purely because Cage is in them. This is coming from a Cage aficionado, so maybe I’m slightly biased but good or bad; Cage’s films definitely have a certain appeal to them. Luckily though, Joe falls into the ‘good’ camp, even brilliant perhaps. 

Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Joe. The film follows Gary (Tye Sheridan) a young and hard working boy who, along with his family, wanders into town with no money and no friends. His father is a violent alcoholic, his mother is barely seen and his sister is a mute. After arriving in town Gary meets Joe (Nicolas Cage) and manages to secure work with him, poisoning trees for the logging companies to be able to come in and chop them down. As the film goes on we learn more about Joe’s troubled past and, as Gary’s father grows increasingly violent, Joe becomes a surrogate father figure for the boy. Along the way Joe and Gary run into trouble with local gangsters and Gary’s dad remains a constant problem. But the real focus of the film isn’t the conflict between the groups of people but rather the relationship between Joe and Gary. Tye Sheridan continues to impress after his turn in Mud, and Cage is as good as he’s been in quite some time. His last role this good was probably in Lord of War and that was seven years ago. The relationship between the two is something we’ve seen in films many times before, including in Sheridan’s last film Mud. But the relationship in Joe manages to feel new and unique, and doesn’t hit familiar beats and character moments that would be expected of a film like this.

David Gordon Green continues to show he’s a credible director as well. After a couple of worryingly crappy films like The Sitter and Your Highness it seems he’s back on track and is actually quite a good director. The film is shot wonderfully with a surprising use of colour used, making it more interesting looking than I had first anticipated. The film revels in the seedy underbelly of the town but as well as the dark side of the area, Green also manages to capture the warmer, nicer spirit of the Deep South; even the weirdest people in town, such as the strange mumbling store owner, have a warmth and familiarity to them. He manages to show both sides of the south without too often resorting to the tropes and clichés that would usually be expected of a film set in this area. The script is similarly great; managing to mix dark elements and a surprising amount of humour. A lot of this comes from Cage, but the humour is genuine and not just at the expense of Cage’s often weird and unique screen persona. The film does veer on the darker side for the last act but it is all handled expertly and the tonal shifts feel natural.

Fans of Nicolas Cage should definitely check out Joe if they haven’t already, but the film has much more to offer apart from the presence of Cage. It’s a well-directed and well scripted slice of Deep South Americana and one of the best coming of age movies in recent years. It’s dark, haunting and violent but also funny and hopeful. If you like similarly set films such as Mud and Killer Joe or you like the darker Cage films such as Bringing Out The Dead and Bad Lieutenant, or you just like great cinema, then Joe is a definite must watch.

Joe gets a strong 5/5.


Tom Bumby

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