A rough Mississippi backwoodsman (Nicolas Cage) takes a neglected teen (Mud’s Tye Sheridan) under his wing in David Gordon Green’s atmospheric and affecting Southern thriller.
“Joe serves up a bloody cut of Southern Gothic and a bullish portrait of masculinity in crisis, perfectly embodied by Nicolas Cage. The title character is a foursquare backwoodsman, employed by the lumber companies to poison the weak trees and clear the ground for resilient new timber. Along the way, he finds room in his crew for Gary, a troubled teenager from a shack outside town. Gary is desperate to earn some money and shake off the attentions of his vicious alcoholic father (superbly played by Gary Poulter). ‘I’m your friend,’ Joe assures the kid, although events have a way of intruding on the idyll… Implicitly (and sometimes not so implicitly), the film tells us that it’s not just the trees that are sickening here… [Joe] stands as a reminder of what a terrific actor Cage can be when he is able to harness and channel his wilder impulses... He looks at home, in his natural habitat, although men like Joe are never truly at home – and therein lies the drama.” — Xan Brooks, The Guardian