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Last updateSat, 11 Jan 2014 11am

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Nicolas Cage dons a decent hairpiece as the title character in Joe, the latest drama from director David Gordon Green.

Cage’s Joe is a strange sort, showing a maximum amount of restraint and responsibility while on the job with his tree-killing company. He is not only an in-control boss; he’s a friendly, seemingly stable man.

Off the job, it’s a different story. He drinks heavily, frequents whorehouses, taunts the police and does overnighters in jail. In one of the film’s more-amusing sequences, he gets fed up with a hooker’s dog, and decides to allow her dog to meet his dog. Cage’s acting in this very scene is his best since going nuts in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans.

Joe winds up hiring Gary (Tye Sheridan), a teenage boy, and his troublesome father, Wade (Gary Poulter). Gary is a good worker, and he and Joe strike up a friendship. As for Wade, he’s a nightmare—unproductive on the job and threatening toward his son. Wade’s not invited back, and when Joe finds out Wade is prone to beating and robbing his son, Joe goes on the protective prowl. Poulter was an actual homeless man, hired off the streets for the film, and he is a terrifying, tragic presence in this movie. (He died, still homeless, before the film finished production.)

Sheridan, so good in Mud and The Tree of Life, is excellent here. This is one of those films in which Cage reminds us that he can be more than just a paycheck actor.

The film is available on demand and via various online sources, including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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