Joe (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Joe</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, December 2015)  By now, a substantial number of critics have almost given up on Nicolas Cage: Despite a quasi-legendary filmography, Cage seems to have lately retreated in a succession of dull roles in low-budget exploitation films that don’t give him any chance to stretch as an actor.  (His purported problems with the IRS may have something to do with this “grab any paycheck” phase.)  Where is the formerly-great Cage?  Fortunately, Joe may tide a few pundits for a while, given how it’s easily Cage’s best role in years.  Fully bearded and dispensing with his usual nouveau-shamanic acting tics in favor of a much more restrained approach, Cage plays an ex-con with anger issues, making a meager living in a small Texas town where he has complicated relationships with the police, an ex-wife, old enemies and recurring flings.  Joe’s life changes when he meets a teenager made wise beyond his years due to his father’s abuse.  Becoming an unlikely role model to the young man, Joe has to choose how deeply he should involve himself in his affairs.  But Cage isn’t the only one redeeming himself with Joe: Director David Gordon Green also goes back to more respectable roots after a detour in dumb comedies.  Other good performances abound: Tye Sheridan is once again remarkable, while non-actor Gary Poulter gets a great role as an abusive father.  The result is slow-paced, meditative, almost oppressive in its low-class small-town atmosphere, but it’s respectable and poignant, definitely the kind of movies that Cage should be doing more often. 

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