Joe, David Gordon Greene, 2013
By Ali Tenenbaum
This might go in the category of “if you like Mud, you will like…” Except Mud was really good: original and bleak but fascinating and compelling. Joe is similar, an ex con with a dark past who becomes a reluctant role model for a young troubled boy... but the film doesn’t have the grit or the sensitivity that Mud has. David Gordon Greene tries to soften the tone a bit as Joe takes in women in need, protects his workers and is ultimately a good guy. But our hero still gets arrested at every turn and soothes his darkened soul with violence and prostitution. It doesn't have the humor of Pineapple Express (ok, fine, perhaps not a fair comparison) and the subtle, nuanced story telling of his breakout hit George Washington is nowhere to be found.
Joe is not a total failure. The beard suits Nicholas Cage and it’s good to see him back among the living as the great actor we know him to be. Greene often casts unknowns and non-professionals, and this is no different. The alcoholic, homeless mentally ill father of the boy successfully exudes pain and suffering. The underlying contrast of small-town-poor-white-southern-trash vs. the world of nature, hunting and survival is somewhat compelling. But there is just too much menace (evil scar faced villain, relentless barking dogs, unknown looming dark pasts of every character etc. etc.) and it supersedes the story. Keep grandma and the kid far away from this.
Follow me on twitter @alitenenabum
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.