Joe (Nicolas Cage) is an ex-con who managed to build up a successful, if illegal woodchucking business. He generally plays a rather big role in his community. When Joe is approached by 15 year old Gary (Tye Sheridan) who admires him and asks for a job for his and his alcoholic, violent father (Gary Poulter), Joe gives him a chance. But not everybody loves Joe and Gary gets caught up in the middle.
Joe (the movie) didn’t work for me. Mostly because Joe (the character) didn’t work for me at all. Which has less to do with Nicolas Cage and more with the script but in any case it makes the film pretty much unbearable.
My problem was that I couldn’t, for one second, see Joe as a hero, but everybody in the film did: Gary of course (he might be excused for his youth), all the women he comes in contact with, his neighbors, the people who work for him. And I just watched the entire set-up and thought, “holy freaking crap, why would you all adore him so much?”
He’s an alcoholic, chain-smoking, prostitute-buying, dog-killing asshole who likes to hit people, works an illegal, environment-unfriendly job where he practically only employs black people (illegally, of course) with whom he has the magnanimous attitude of an early 20th century lord towards his servants. I just couldn’t find one redeeming and certainly no heroic feature. And there are films where stuff like this works. Drive comes to mind where everybody in the film and in the audience was enamored with Ryan Gosling’s driver and I just thought “what a psychopath!” as the soundtrack touted him as a hero and a real human being. But it’s still an excellent film that I enjoyed a whole damn lot. Not so here.
Maybe it was Nicolas Cage’s lack of charisma, but I honestly don’t think that the blame lay with him. I think it’s more the fact that this obviously a male ideal about manliness that probably only works for men. I couldn’t find an access point.
Which is rather unfortunate because if I had found that point, I certainly would have appreciated Tye Sheridan’s performance – which was nuanced and authentic – even more. But instead I got bombarded with screaming, barking and fighting (which seems to be half of the film) and an utterly unbelievable main character.