Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Review: Nicolas Cage Returns to His Naturalist Roots in 'Joe,' Directed by David Gordon Green

Photo of Matt Mueller By Matt Mueller | Thompson on Hollywood April 11, 2014 at 2:57PM

David Gordon Green's "Joe" is a sluggish, slow-burn drama set in poverty-mired Mississippi about the bond that gradually builds between a drifter boy ("Mud"'s Tye Sheridan) and a simmering ex-con (Nicolas Cage). While both Cage and Sheridan are very watchable, especially in the scenes they share together, "Joe" is ultimately too underpowered to make it anything other than ordinary.
1
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in "Joe."
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in "Joe."

David Gordon Green's "Joe" is a taxing viewing experience, a sluggish, slow-burn drama set in poverty-mired Mississippi about the bond that gradually builds between a drifter boy ("Mud"'s Tye Sheridan) and a simmering ex-con (Nicolas Cage). Struggling to muster a mood of impending eruption, "Joe" is weighed down by dramatic inertia and lethargic pacing, with scenes often grinding on far longer than they need to without enough justification in terms of character-building significance or absorbing dialogue.

Cage is the titular Joe, a rough-edged bear of a man who runs an illegal tree-killing outfit (poisoning "the wood nobody wants" so lumber companies can sweep in to replant saleable pine). He's unfulfilled and drifting through life, boozing, whoring and trying to keep the lid on a vicious temper that once landed him in prison and now brings him into conflict with the local super-creep (Ronnie Gene Blevins). Into his sphere drifts 15-year-old Gary, whose itinerant family are squatting an abandoned house but who has brains and work ethic to spare. Gary quickly endears himself to Joe, who hires him for his tree-murder squad but then has to cope with another monstrous scumbag, Gary's thieving, abusive, alcoholic father.

The first half of "Joe" is particularly strained, struggling to gather momentum due to drifting interludes involving Joe's predominantly African-American crew, or his visits to poverty-stricken townfolk and run-ins with local police. A senseless killing is committed by one character whose irredeemable loathsomeness has already been hammered home hard, and there's far too much set-up for the outburst of violence we know will come when Joe succumbs to his inner demons.

"Joe" was adapted from a novel by Larry Brown which was highly praised for its lyrical approach to disturbing content and nasty characters. Up on the screen, however, where this story is heading feels obvious from the get-go so it's perplexing why Green takes so long to get there, leaching the potency of a should-have-been-shattering climax. While both Cage and Sheridan are very watchable, especially in the scenes they share together, "Joe" is ultimately too underpowered to make it anything other than ordinary.

Read our TOH! interview with David Gordon Green on "Prince Avalanche" hereand our TOH! interview with Nicolas Cage here.


This article is related to: David Gordon Green, Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Venice Film Festival, Reviews, Reviews, Festivals


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.