Joe Ransom, an ex-con, runs a tree-removal service where he employs a group of hard-working men who society has turned their back on. Joe's life is a daily struggle, attempting to dodge everything around him which could bring trouble back into his life. All of that changes when he meets Gary, a 15-year old boy, who alone attempts to support his family and himself. Gary's father is a complete drunkard, borderline sociopath, who routinely beats Gary and his sister as a way to remain in control of the household. David Gordon Green's Joe presents this small rural community as a place of despair and sadness, where the lines between good and evil are constantly blurred. Joe is a not a good man by traditional standards, a drunk who minds his own business in an effort to stay out of trouble. Through Gary, Joe is given a chance of redemption, as he begins to realize the only way to truly help Gary is to get involved. This is Joe's film through and through, and Nicholas Cage encapsulates this character with subtlety and grace, delivering one of his best performances in the better part of decade. The story of Joe and his relationship with Gary is the centerpiece of the film, providing a narrative that is incredibly gripping and unpredictable, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat. There are segments in the film that are downright haunting and excruciating but none of the drama ever feels anything but organic and geniune. Thematically David Gordon Green's Joe is a film about redemption and hope in a place where little of either is anywhere to be found. It's not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination but Green's Joe is a triumphant return for Nicholas Cage, delivering rich characters and a taught narrative set in a hopeless world.
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