An ex-con (Nicolas Cage), running from his past and volatile temper while remaining well liked in the community, takes on a 14 year old boy to his tree removal crew and finds himself becoming his protector from an abusive, alcoholic father (Gary Poulter) and other predatory trash who inhabit their impoverished Southern locality. Following a series of crummy big budget comedies and the misguided, attempted recoil Prince Avalanche, Joe (adapted from Joe Brown’s book by Gary Hawkins) is David Gordon Green’s successful return to the kind of rurally set indies on which he built his name. In addition to reasserting Green’s abilities, it also serves as evidence that Cage is still capable of contributing a commanding lead performance. The rest of the film is wonderfully and knowingly flavored, with Sheridan excellent as the determined, wide-eyed youth and Poulter, Ronnie Gene Blevins, and the rest of the ensemble particularly well cast.
*** 1/2 out of ****