Nicholas Cage, recently turned fifty; in his latest film “Joe” he time travels back to his acting prowess of “Leaving Las Vegas”; barely recognizable, bearded, inked he is an ex-con running a day- labor crew that poisons undesirable trees, making room for developers to civilize the land; Joe is a nice guy with a volatile, alcoholic temper; Cage is superior in the role.
Ty Sheridan (“Mud”) is “Gary” a destitute, abused fifteen-year-old trying to protect his mother and sister from his maniacal, malicious, drunken father “Wade” (real-life homeless person, Gary Poulter); Joe gives him a job and a sense of stability and respect that has been absent from his mean and peripatetic existence. As their relationship evolves Joe’s tenuous mental balance starts to slip, leaving him open to the jaws of law enforcement; he and his nameless pit bull become perfectly aligned; portending a brutal, disruptive outcome.
Director David Gordon Green knows the dire vicissitudes of poverty -infused rural Texas; the relentless rain, unforgiving heat, inhabitants living on the edge of the law and life. Not a false note resonates in this cruel and realistic scenario.
Cage’s performance throbs with verisimilitude, nullifying years of mediocrity; his gift has been refurbished and gleams with a brightness long gone missing.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!