It’s hard not to compare Joe with 2012’s Mud. The stories wear similar clothes, with both centering on Southern ex-cons who befriend teenagers. But what makes these two films so unique side by side is that the teenager in both is played by the same actor, Tye Sheridan. Mud features another of the great recent Matthew McConaughey performances; Joe gives us Nicolas Cage. And while that’s always a loaded deck, he’s mostly fine here. What weighs Joe down is director David Gordon Green’s reliance on nonactors in pivotal roles, such as Gary Poulter as the teen’s abusive, drunken father. Poulter, who died a couple of months after the film was completed, was a homeless man in Austin who Green felt was perfect for the role. So there are trade-offs between authenticity and quality, and they unfortunately weaken what might otherwise be a really strong effort.
Director: David Green
Producer: Lisa Muskat, David Green, Christopher Woodrow, Derrick Tseng, Maria Cestone, Molly Conners, Sarah Redlich, Hoyt Morgan, Brad Coolidge, Todd Labarowski, Danny McBride and Jody Hill
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Gary Poulter, Ronnie Blevins, Sue Rock, Adriene Mishler, Brian Mays, AJ McPhaul, Heather Kafka, Brenda Isaacs Booth and Anna Niemtschk