Joe (2013 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Gordon Green|
|Screenplay by||Gary Hawkins|
by Larry Brown
|Edited by||Colin Patton|
|Distributed by||Worldview Entertainment
Joe is a 2013 drama film directed by David Gordon Green and starring Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan and Ronnie Gene Blevins. It is an adaptation of Larry Brown's 1991 novel of the same name and premiered at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, with a subsequent screening at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
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The film opens with Gary (Tye Sheridan), a 15-year-old drifter, lecturing his father, Wade (Gary Poulter), on getting a job and not destroying anything good that comes their way. Wade turns to Gary, punches him in the face and walks off, only to be met by two men who in turn brutally beat Wade.
Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage) is a foreman for a small tree-poisoning crew in backwoods Texas. He is well-liked by the residents of the town and his crew, but has a long string of incarcerations due to his violent behaviour and disrespect for the law. He lives in self-imposed emotional isolation, frequenting a local brothel owned by a woman named Merle, and having frequent relations with a woman named Connie. Gary finds Joe and asks him for a job, soon impressing him with his work ethic, and Joe tells him to bring his father next time. When Gary brings his father with him the next day, Wade's attitude and utter laziness gets them both fired, and Joe witnesses Wade beat Gary and take his money. Gary later goes to Joe's house to talk him into rehiring him. Joe agrees, and Gary begins working for him regularly, hiding his money from Wade. Joe visits a man named Henry, but as he leaves is shot by Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins), a local criminal with whom Joe has a history. Later, Gary meets Willie, and when Willie makes lewd comments about his sister, Gary attacks him, telling him not to disrespect his family. Gary continues to work for Joe, while Wade beats to death a homeless man, stealing his belongings and liquor.
Willie confronts Joe at a bar and tells him that he wants to end their feud. Joe agrees, but Willie continues to harass him, asking him where Gary lives in an attempt to find him and seek revenge. Joe doesn't answer, and when Willie continues to press him, Joe violently assaults him, slamming his head against the bar and threatening to kill him with a broken bottle. Joe spares Willie, however, and tells the bartender to call the police before fleeing to the brothel. Joe leaves after finding that Merle isn't there, and being spooked by the angry guard dog that harasses him with every visit. Joe returns home, gets his dog and returns to the brothel, where he sets his dog on the guard dog before having sex with one of the prostitutes. He leaves with his dog, who has killed the brothel's guard dog, but a police car appears and drives after him. The officer tells him to pull over, but Joe refuses and tries to escape. However, a second police car is blocking the road, and he is forced to stop. The two officers hold him at gunpoint as he lets his dog out of his truck, and Joe yells at them to put the guns down and fight him.
Meanwhile, Wade tells Gary not to see Joe as a father figure, and claims to be the one taking care of him. Wade asks Gary for money, but Gary claims that he doesn't have any. Wade points out that they have food, so Gary must have bought it with something. Gary insults him and tries to attack him when Wade starts to search his coat. Wade knocks Gary down and finds his money in the coat pocket, and Gary attempts to fight him. Wade violently beats Gary who retorts that Wade isn't his father. Wade threatens Gary with a knife, and claims that he is trying to take care of him. Wade leaves, but promises to return and find the rest of Gary's money. Joe has been arrested, but is about to be released. The officer releasing him informs Joe he has been charged with DUI, resisting arrest, and assaulting an officer. Joe returns home and reports his dog being lost. Suddenly, Gary arrives after having heard about Joe's run-in with the police. Joe tells him about how he was arrested and served 29 months in prison for assaulting three police officers who he claims attacked him. Gary agrees to help Joe look for his dog. Joe lets Gary drive his truck, and they look for his dog together while drinking and bonding. They find Joe's dog where he last saw it after Gary suggests looking there, and Joe gives Gary his lighter as a keepsake. Joe finds Wade walking along on the side of the road and invites him into his truck. Joe mentions that Gary wants to buy his truck, and when Wade insults Gary, Joe grabs him by the collar and tells him that if he finds out that anything bad happens to him, he'll assault the person who did it.
Later, Joe talks to Gary at his home, asking him why he stays with his family living in poverty. Gary explains that he needs to take care of his mother and sister. Gary tells Joe that he has enough money to buy his truck. Meanwhile, Willie finds Wade and prepares to make a deal with him, while Joe and Gary buy a new truck. Joe tells Gary to keep the money he was going to use to buy Joe's truck, and use it to get insurance instead. Gary thanks Joe and leaves in the truck. As Joe drives home in his new truck, he is followed by a police car, and he pulls over. The officer asks Joe why his truck doesn't have any tags on it, and Joe tells him that he just bought it. The officer tries to make him take a breathalyzer test, but Joe refuses and drives away. The officer pursues him, and forces him to stop. Joe gets out of his truck and screams at the officer, who threatens him with a gun. Joe quickly disarms him and beats him before leaving. Joe returns home to find the officer that released him previously waiting for him, and that Connie has moved out. The officer tells Joe that the trooper Joe assaulted is a rookie who has just started working for him. The officer asks Joe why he seemingly wants to return to prison, and the officer acknowledges that he too used to be a criminal.
That night, Gary arrives at Joe's house, his face badly beaten. Gary asks to borrow his truck, and Joe asks what happened. Gary says that he wants to kill Wade, and get his truck back, which he reveals that Wade stole after beating him. When Joe tells him to bring his mother and sister so they can live without Wade, Gary reveals that Wade has taken Dorothy with him, and has been paid to allow Willie to rape her. Joe tells Gary that he can't rescue her alone, and that he needs his help; Gary agrees and Joe gets his gun. Meanwhile, Wade waits with Dorothy in a desolate place, and Willie arrives with his henchman. Willie pays Wade $30, where Willie then puts on a rabbit mask and prepares to rape Dorothy. Joe and Gary arrive, and Joe tells Gary that if anything happens to him, he should leave and tell one of the other tree-removal workers to call the police. Joe pulls Willie out of the truck and throws him and his thug to the ground, holding them at gunpoint. Gary takes Dorothy into Joe's truck, and Joe tells Willie's thug to leave before he kills him. Gary leaves in Joe's truck with Dorothy, and Willie begs Joe to spare him, pitifully trying to justify his actions. As Joe prepares to kill him, he is shot by Willie's thug, who has returned with a rifle. One of his shots ricochets and grazes Willie's forehead, and Joe fatally shoots the thug. Willie sobs and tells Joe to shoot him. He begins to repeat the story he told Gary earlier, but Joe shoots him in the head, instantly killing him. Joe, his leg injured from the gunshot, limps towards Wade who is standing on a nearby bridge. He tries to shoot him, but misses due to his dizziness from blood loss. He attempts to shoot Wade again, but finds he is out of bullets. Wade asks Joe if he's his friend, and when Joe doesn't answer, leaps off the bridge to his death.
The police arrive, and they find Joe barely alive, slumped on the ground having lost too much blood. Gary hugs him, but Joe loses consciousness and succumbs to his injuries. Later, Gary is shown to have inherited Joe's truck and dog, and he is given a new job replanting the same forest that Joe and his crew killed earlier on.
- Nicolas Cage as Joe Ransom
- Tye Sheridan as Gary
- Heather Kafka as Lacy
- Ronnie Gene Blevins as Willie
- Brian Mays as Junior
- Sue Rock as Merle
- Adriene Mishler as Connie
- Gary Poulter as Wade
- Dana Freitag as Sue
Joe received positive reviews from critics. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 87% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 126 reviews with a "Certified Fresh" rating and an average score of 7.3/10, with the site consensus: "Rich in atmosphere and anchored by a powerful performance from Nicolas Cage, Joe is a satisfying return to form for its star -- as well as director David Gordon Green". On Metacritic, it holds a 74/100 score (indicating "generally favorable"), based on reviews from 36 critics.
The film circulated into the mainstream news when actor Gary Poulter was found dead in a shallow body of water on February 19, 2013, before the film was ever released. Poulter, who played an alcoholic father in the film, was a real-life homeless man, who suffered from alcoholism and was already deeply ill. His only other acting credit was as a background extra in the TV series Thirtysomething. Producers worried that casting Poulter in the film would be a risk because of Poulter's lack of sobriety, but Green stayed committed to having him in the film. Writing for RogerEbert.com, Peter Sobczynski called Poulter's performance "stunning" and "one of the great one-shot performances in the history of the cinema".
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