Joe Blu-ray Review
Gary and his father sit by the railroad tracks. The old man is gray and weathered, the boy in the early part of his teenage years. Gary starts by telling his old man to look at him, that he has something to say. He’s messed up and hurt his family too much. “You’re just a selfish old drunk,” he tells him. And then the old man strikes his son as hard as he can and heads up the hill.
We’re introduced to Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage), who heads a group of men whose job it is to poison local trees so the property owners can grow stronger pines. It’s a tight team that starts the day off with coffee and banter and ends it knowing they did what they’re paid to do. It’s on one of the typical work days that Gary Gary (Tye Sheridan, who appeared in Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE and Jeff Nichols’ MUD) comes across the crew and asks for a job. Gary doesn’t bother to ask how much it pays; he just wants to get out of the house.
The pay, it turns out, is good enough for Gary’s father, Wade (Gary Poulter, who died before the film was released). Carrying on is Joe, the sort of man who visits brothels, picks up venomous snakes with his bare hands and drinks “too much” (if there is such a thing in that neck of the woods). He keeps a gun on him and is an expert at skinning dead animals. Seeing how both men are, we know life-changing and perhaps -ending decisions will be made.
Cage is often criticized and made a punchline for his acting and choice of roles. His missteps are so frequent that it’s easy for many to forget (if they ever even knew) just how strong of an actor he is. Supporters often cite LEAVING LAS VEGAS, ADAPTATION and RAISING ARIZONA as cases for his capabilities. Add to that list JOE, in which Cage gives a complex and layered performance that rocks somewhere between restrained and psychotic. This is why you can never count Cage out.
JOE is also something of a return to director David Gordon Green’s roots, which he temporarily left behind when he fell into the stoner comedy subgenre with PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and YOUR HIGNESS. There is no humor to be found here and the film is more in the vein of UNDERTOW, his 2004 Georgia-set tragedy.
JOE, which is based on Larry Brown’s novel of the same name and adapted by Gary Hawkins, puts the viewer on edge and makes them nervous for the duration. We know—perhaps because of the sudden bursts of violence and unsettling incidents featured in GEORGE WASHINGTON and UNDERTOW—that something bad will happen. Adding to the sense of dread is that we’re not sure what will be a warning shot and what will be the real thing. JOE isn’t necessarily a suspenseful film, but you feel the beats of your heart pick up the pace.
JOE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer captures Tim Orr’s natural cinematography excellently, presenting the deep, muted colors and surrounding atmospheres with full effect. Details are also very strong in clothes, skin tones and exterior locations.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio transfer creates an organic environment that presents dialogue, sound effects (dog barks, gun fires) and Jeff McIlwain and David Wingo’s score with no detectable flaws.
Commentary with director David Gordon Green, composer David Wingo and actor Brian D. Mays: Green, Wingo and Mays provide a thorough track that highlights all aspects of production that fans would be curious about. Although the exclusion of Cage and Sheridan is a letdown, this is still a strong commentary and absolutely worth a listen.
The Making of JOE (11:15): Green and Nicolas Cage discuss the original story, the cast, the “mythical” aspects of Joe and more. Also included are clips and on-set footage.
The Long Gravel Drive: The Origins of JOE (15:55): Screenwriter Gary Hawkins pays tribute to author Larry Brown and his works. Excerpts from an archival interview with Brown, who died in 2004, are also featured.
Deleted Scenes: There are two here, which can only be viewed separately. They are: “Wade Black Widow” (0:57) and “Wad and Willie Full Scene” (1:49).