22 April, 2014

Atlanta Review: "Joe" (****)

Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage star in "Joe"

Few directors are able to jump from genre to genre as successfully as David Gordon Green. With one of the most unique directing resumes ranging from stoner comedies all the way to quiet passion projects, Green has continued to challenge himself as a filmmaker. His latest is “Joe”, which stars an almost unrecognizable Nicolas Cage and semi-newcomer Tye Sheridan. Joe, played by Cage, is a well meaning but hot-tempered ex con whose life of impulsivity and bad choices have turned him into a hardened and lonely man. Between the alcohol, prostitutes and never-ending stream of cigarettes, Joe seems to have little drive or purpose. That is until he meets young Gary (Sheridan).

Gary is a hard-working young man whose drunk, penniless father has given him no choice but to take matters of providing for the family into his own hands. As they both are forced to come face to face with their own problems, Joe and Gary find a friendship in one another and a purpose because of one another. Sheridan proved himself as a serious talent to watch in last year’s "Mud" and almost outdoes himself here. He gives an immensely layered performance as the tortured young boy. Cage gives one of his best performances in years, reminding us what he is capable of as an actor. His chemistry with Sheridan feels terrifically natural.

It’s nice to see Green returning to drama. His previous film, "Prince Avalanche"—which was a strange and intimate comedy—was wonderful but lacked the powerful dramatic heft that Green now proves himself capable of with “Joe." The film, which is sprinkled with spurts of extreme violence and suspense, is kept grounded thanks to Green’s care for his characters and exceptional attention to tone and atmosphere. I look forward to seeing what unexpected turn David Gordon Green takes next.

4 out of 5 stars.

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