Nicolas Cage returns to a more form of subtle acting in 2013's Joe.
Joe (Nicolas Cage) is a former troublemaker turned solid citizen who specializes in the killing of trees. One day while working with his crew, Gary (Tye Sheridan) arrives and asks Joe if he could offer his and his father Wade's (Gary Poulter) services. Joe agrees; noticing that Gary has a strong worth ethic while Wade does not pull his weight. Releasing both from their job duties, Joe observes Wade being physical towards Gary. Not wanting to return to his troublemaking lifestyle, Joe allows the situation to take its course and continues on with his life.
While away from Joe, Wade lives his life through a bottle and has no care for Gary or his well-being. Wade routinely beats Gary while in a drunken stupor and steals any money that Gary has earned on his own. During one of Wade's drunken days, Gary comes across Willie, (Ronnie Gene Blevins) who has already had more than one encounter with Joe. Unbeknownst to all, Joe, Gary, Wade and Willie set forth actions in which all of their lives are destined to collide with one another.
Taking place in the South, director David Gordon Green fills the film with local atmosphere and immerses the audience into a world that seems all too real. Looking up information about the film after watching it, I read that David Gordon Green mixed the acting with actors and local persons to give the film a feeling of authenticity. This is a strong point in the film, as the hired locals mesh well with the established actors to almost give the film a feel of a documentary. This stands most true to Gary Poulter's Wade, who plays a homeless drunk. Reading further about the film, it seems that Poulter's portrayal of Wade did not appear to differentiate much from his true personality.
Nicolas Cage plays Joe as a man trying to keep his anger contained, which works well. With the exception of a running joke about a dog being an asshole, Cage keeps his usually campy self away from the film and provides a nuanced performance. Tye Sheridan's Gary leans more the opposite way of Joe, yet is still a very good performance. Joe sees Gary as an almost younger version of himself and decides to take the kid under his wing to allow Gary to do right where Joe had gone wrong in life.
The screenplay, adapted from the book of the same name, is where I had some trouble with the film. Parts of the film seem to meander without much purpose, including a long time to get to the point the story is trying to make. The character of Willie seems to be added in for extra tension, but the character feels extraneous and doesn't need to be in the film. As we slowly approach the very predictable climax, all the characters come together exactly how the viewer would expect with the film concluding in a rather anti-climactic fashion.
Solid performances from most of the cast help carry the film where the screenplay fails it. It's nice to see Nicolas Cage return to true acting and Tye Sheridan shows that he could have a very solid future in film.