Nicolas Cage Returns for Thrilling Comeback in Joe
Nicolas Cage’s track record as an actor has been all over the place. From major disasters like Drive Angry and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance to Oscar-bait Adaptation, Cage has lacked consistency.
As ex-con Joe in David Gordon Green’s film by the same name, Cage delivers a much-needed comeback performance. Think of it this way. Matthew McConaughey was in a very similar spot too. Thanks to roles in Mud plus many others, he’s gone from another face in Hollywood to Oscar winner overnight.
Joe is an ambiguously rich character. After many years in and out of prison, Joe pursues legit work. He and his team poison trees in order new and stronger ones to grow in their place. One day, a young boy Gary (Tye Sheridan) stumbles on the scene asking for a job for him and his father.
Joe quickly takes to Gary, who’s a hard worker from the start. That’s a fair contrast to Gary’s father, Wade who’s nothing short of an abusive alcoholic. Joe has his share of demons to run from. But he has a good heart and want to make matters right by becoming a father figure to Gary.
Director David Gordon Green tends to drag the first half of Joe out more than he needs. The slow burn requires plenty of patience, which many audience members may not be willing to invest in. Until the subplots with Joe, Gary and his father Wade begin to converge, scenes come off a string of odd events.
Cage is top-notch as Joe, probably his strongest role in a decade. He gives a layered range from reserved to rage, straying clear of the stereotypical redneck. Luckily, the chemistry Cage has with Tye Sheridan is equally impressive. Sheridan was shockingly good in last year’s Mud. Here, he’s taking his skill to a brand new level even if the plot seems familiar.
Gary is constantly in the crossfire of his abusive father and his father figure. Cage and Gary Poulter are a well-balanced yin and yang. On one side, Joe is on a path of redemption. Wade, on the other hand, doesn’t care who he has to beat to bloody pulp just to get his next few bucks for booze. It’s a stunning singled-out performance on Poulter’s part (who was actually a real-life homeless man).
The atmosphere of Joe is breathtaking, capturing such raw emotion. There’s an abundance of violence and abuse that will leave audiences cringing. Gordon Green isn’t afraid to show the brutality of characters falling from grace from all directions.
Hopefully, Joe is the springboard for Nicolas Cage to continue his return to form. The same goes for Sheridan, who is belting out some of the finest performances of a young actor in years. He just needs to take a risk outside the genre to prove his genuine worth.
GRADE: A- (4.5/5)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matt Marshall is a YouTube movie reviewer who hosts MNMreviews. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.