Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Nic Cage as Joe: 'I wanted to be as naked as possible.'
"Cage takes commanding ownership of the somewhat familiar material and milieu."

It's good to see Nicolas Cage back on top form in Joe, David Gordon Green's Southern grassroots drama about an ex-convict struggling with his demons and his relationship with a teenager youngster (an equally impressive Tye Sheridan), who is seeking some emotional stability and a role model to replace his frequently drunk and abusive father.

The setting has been shifted from the Mississippi of Larry Brown's original novel to Texas. Green captures the poverty and repression of small town life where hope of a better life has all but vanished from most of the population. What is left is simmering violence, guns and drink.

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Cage's character (Joe Ransom) runs an operation to "poison" trees to enable the timber company to replace them with more lucrative and enduring pines. He hires 15-year-old Gary Jones (played by Sheridan), who may lack formal education but is smart and streetwise.

The two strike up a close friendship with Joe showing the boy genuine affection that so far has been missing from his straitened existence. He gives him the added strength to reject his real father Wade (Gary Poulter) and to live by his own rules.

Cage takes commanding ownership of the somewhat familiar material and milieu. He is on screen for the most of the film with a magnetic performance that is both nuanced and naturalistic as he confronts his inner conflicts and his inability to show emotion event to his girlfriend (Adriene Mishler).

Among the lesser cast of locals, including many unprofessionals, there is a tendency to mumble the dialogue - which with an added heavy Texan accent renders some of it incomprehensible to outsiders.

Green after such frolics as Pineapple Express and Your Highness feels much more at home with this sinewy drama and certainly extracts Cage's best turn in a long time.

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2013
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When an ex-con meets a teenager who looks to him for inspiration, he has to decide, once and for all, what to do with his life.
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Read more Joe reviews:

Owen Van Spall ***1/2

Director: David Gordon Green

Writer: Gary Hawkins, based on the book by Larry Brown.

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Sue Rock, Heather Kafka

Year: 2013

Runtime: 117 minutes

Country: US

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