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“Joe” – Review (POSITIVE)

May 18, 2014

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 12.58.59 PMNicolas Cage has become the internets golden boy for the butt of every joke, now why is that? I remember a time when Cage was highly regarded as a serious actor, who at times took a side route to make some fun pulpy films, keep in mind this is the mid-late-90s Nic Cage I’m discussing.

Naturally, fame can get the better of a person, money blinds them, and soon enough you’re sitting in your home with a fish tank, holding a shark…or a sting-ray…or a jelly fish? I don’t know, at this point every rumor I’ve heard about Cage’s wealth expenses seem all to frightfully realistic. However, when the time of bankruptcy comes knocking at your door, your only option to save ones ass is to make as many schlocky-quick buck films you can.

Now, in this 2014 year, I can see a change in Cage’s selection of films, in the past year he’s improved on his pick of films; the highly successful animated family comedy, “The Croods”, the upcoming religious-thriller adaptation of “Left Behind”, and now his first time collaboration with indie golden boy David Gordon Green. Oddly enough this is sort of a comeback story for writer/director Green as well.

Since his last respected drama, “Snow Angels”, David Gordon Green made the transition to commercial cinema, with his first major hit in the form of “Pineapple Express”. It was lighting in a bottle for Green, however, catching it not once more, but a third time didn’t suffice, he flopped with “Your Highness”“The Sitter”. Green collaborated with his pals Ben Best, Jody Hill, & Danny McBride on the cult HBO series “Eastbound & Down”, directing a bulk of episodes, alongside Hill.

Green would later return to his indie roots with “Prince Avalanche” (now available on Netflix streaming), garnering critical praise for the films unique comedic tone, and the chemistry between stars Paul Rudd & Emile Hirsch. Now we see two big named fellas, highly regarded in the film community, both somewhat took a misdirection in their respective careers, now teaming up to tell a story about a man who’s also conflicted about the life choices he’s bestowed upon himself in the film called “Joe”.

A hard-living, hot-tempered, ex-con Joe Ransom (Cage), is just trying to dodge his instincts for trouble, constant run-in with the law, earning the staple of a troublemaker, even when he’s done nothing wrong. Joe’s life changes, when he meets a hard-luck kid, Gary (Tye Sheridan), living in abusive home(less) environment, fathered by a drunk crazed lunatic, and tries his best to support for his poor dependent sisters and mother.  After befriending Gary, Joe finds something awakening in him he’s never felt before; a fierce and tender-hearted protector.

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 12.58.48 PMThe atmosphere of this film is by far some of the best produced piece of drama Gordon Green has accomplished, not since his debut film “George Washington”. Cage brings an enigmatic performance to the table and his pairing with Tye Sheridan, who by the way nailed it in last years indie-drama “Mud”, brings the right balance of heart and grit. Though the one issue I take with the film, and it’s something that I consider Gordon Green’s only minor weakness in these kinds of films, is it’s pacing. Substituting minimal to no score can be daunting and tiresome after a while, and that has a major affect on the films pace, in my opinion that is.

My hope is for Nicolas Cage to return to more of his indie drama roots, the kind of stuff he sought after early on in his career. Films like “Leaving Las Vegas” work well for him and his colorful demeanor. It’s a fine line of crazy and surreal juxtaposing against such heart break and confusion in the environments he’s been set in…or he can just do a third “National Treasure” film too. Either way, I’m never tired of Cage and his…well, Cage-ness.

GRADE: B+

Aaron Shore, is a contributing blogger for the film sites of Hudak on Hollywood & Insta Reviews.

You can follow Aaron on Twitter @DoubleAAProd

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