Joe ****

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“Joe” is the latest film from David Gordon Green, who is experiencing a career resurgence after crossing over in to mainstream comedies with some disastrous results. Last summer he came back to indie dramas with “Prince Avalanche” and now he puts together an intense drama with a searing performance from Nicolas Cage in “Joe”.

“Joe” is an absolutely gripping mix of friendship, violence and redemption. Taking place in the deep south, Cage portrays Joe, a hot tempered, hard working ex con who spends his days resisting the temptation of getting in to trouble. When a young kid (Ty Sheridan) comes looking for work he finds himself channeling his rage in to the role of a fierce protector who wants to save this young boy from his murderous father.

The performances are terrific but as with most of David Gordon Green’s films the locations play an important role. Together with his usual cinematographer Tim Orr, the film develops a unique visual style that is rich with authenticity in these off the grid backwoods areas. All of the characters homes and the places they spend time, which includes bars, brothels and wide open spaces, seem real. Time and poverty have both taken their toll. The town has almost become a third world country. The infrastructure has been neglected and nature has almost grown back through it all.

The journey and the story seem right at home with these locations and the characters. It is nice to slow down from big blockbuster movies and get to know some real people. Spend time listening to their conversations, their needs and their wants. Joe is somebody we all probably know in our own lives. He is trying to do right but his impulses and his upbringing constantly bring him into conflict.

I wonder how Cage and Green came together on this project. Cage is so erratic with his choices. When he partners with a truly talented director he can be one of the most magnetic actors working today. When he joins movies like “Drive Angry” and “Season Of The Witch” he becomes a parody and it is hard to watch. However it happened this actor and director were born to work together. I hope they can reunite again down the line.

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