Joe – reviews of 'superb' gritty American drama

Jul 25, 2014

Nicolas Cage is 'terrific' as an ex-con and father figure in compelling Southern Gothic tale

What you need to know

Gritty American drama Joe, starring Nicolas Cage, opens in UK cinemas today. David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) directs the film based on the 1991 grit-lit novel by Larry Brown.

Cage stars in the title role as a hard-living ex-con Joe Ransom, who becomes a reluctant father figure to a troubled teenage boy Gary (Tye Sheridan from Tree of Life and Mud), and risks his life on the straight and narrow to help him. The film features several non-professional actors including Gary Poulter, who plays Gary's alcoholic father.

What the critics like

"If you need a reminder of what a fine, nuanced actor Nicolas Cage can be, take a look at Joe," says Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. Sheridan excels as the vulnerable sapling, but the film belongs to Cage and there's not an unfelt moment in his performance, or in the movie

A surprisingly understated Cage anchors this "superbly realised film", says David Hughes in Empire. The performances (many from non-pros) are uniformly terrific, the story compelling and the mood mournful, but not miserablist.

"Joe serves up a bloody cut of Southern Gothic and a bullish portrait of masculinity in crisis, perfectly embodied by Cage," says Xan Brooks in The Guardian. Joe stands as a reminder of what a terrific actor Cage can be when he is able to harness and channel his wilder impulses.

What they don't like

Joe is a movie oddity, "constantly teetering on the brink of gothic melodrama", yet reined in by its fine and believable actors, says Siobhan Synnot in The Scotsman. Moody, melancholy and well-intentioned, it works better as a character study than the melodramatic parable that it eventually embraces. 

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