Nicolas Cage resume proves regardless of how a film turns out he tends to be a bright spot in them. Whether it be good or bad a Nicolas Cage performance tends to be worth seeing. Either be it energetically over the top or as in “Joe” Cage restraint helps him disappear into the role like the talented actor can be in the right role.
Joe is about the title character, an ex-con who is the unlikeliest of role models, meeting a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin. The film flows through Joe and his friendship with Gary rather than jumping from plot point to plot point. Allowing its characters to guide the material through their words holding strongly to their principals that are challenged. Never does it sidetrack into anything other than what it is rooted in. Characterization is slow, but builds up over time learning about Joe and Gary through each other interaction. Both characters show the other flaws as well as compliment one another strong suit. Showing restraint in succumbing to violence as an easy resort, but show their kind hearts to do better. On other hand, the environment around them brings out the worst in them as both attempt to restraint from being violent in situations that makes it desirable. Characters are presented with real issues and their handling on the matter stays true to their nature. Sadly it plays familiar story beats ending with an all too familiar message we’ve seen before that the past will always catch up with you. Another rather small issue would be the peripheral characters that are only around to stir conflict with only one having having a petty fleshed out motivation. Wade (Gary father) being a peripheral as his characterization is little more than abusing his family and killing for a drink. It’s familiarity leaves little surprises, but its engaging central protagonists makes it worth experiencing.
Nicolas Cage stars as Joe and disappears into the role. Joe states several times how important it is for him to restrain himself, that personal restraint is the only thing keeping him alive. Same goes with Cage performance. Nearly every opportunity he might have had to go big with this part, he subdued himself, plays it subtle, keeps it realistic, and exercises the same muscles of restraint in terms of his acting that the character himself must exercise against his violent impulses. Relaying the insecurity and indecision behind Joe’s tough exterior while still remaining an imposing presence. Tye Sheridan character is written pure and perfect, but Sheridan emphasizes his boyishness and trepidation, finding rough edges in a character that could have easily descended into martyrdom. Giving his character allot more depth than the writing provides. Both Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage excel in their share scenes together playing off each other flawlessly. Gary Poulter characterization is wholly one sided in bearing entirely negative traits, however, he’s as pitiful as he is monstrous. Showing an odd tenderness given from his loose appearance to bearing the emotions of man who’s fed up with his broken life. David Gordon Green has a gift for balancing the abstract with the mundane. He isn’t afraid of subtle visual flourishes: a bulldog’s mouth dripping with another dog’s blood; a hog, hanged vertically, being stripped of meat; the kitchen of a brothel, its windows boarded up, with everything aglow in red. Showing the ugliness of a rural America that correlate with its characters; the ugly outside that are just as beat up as the people who live their and the small changes in environments that go along with it characters mood.
Joe is a slow film that much like it central relationship is supported by the strong chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. Both the story and performances aren’t anything new for anyone involve, but rather serve to compliment each other strengths which in the ends makes a great character driven film.