A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Joe is an intense, often brutal indie drama starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green, and based on a novel by Larry Brown. Violent content includes fighting, guns, and blood, as well as very upsetting scenes of a father threatening and beating his 15-year-old son and bloody violence involving dogs. Some scenes take place inside a whorehouse, and a couple of scenes involve strong sexual imagery, as well as plenty of sex talk. Language is strong, with regular uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The main character is a regular drinker; he gets drunk and gives beer to the 15-year-old boy. The boy's father is a raging alcoholic, capable of terrible violence when drunk. The main character also regularly smokes cigarettes and is shown to be highly addicted.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In a grim little Texas town, Joe (Nicolas Cage) runs a grim little operation, using chemical-squirting axes to kill all the trees in the woods so that they can be replaced with stronger ones. He supervises a team of workers, and though the work is difficult, they all respect him. Everyone in town knows Joe, too, and knows they can count on him, despite his violent past and his time in prison. When young Gary (Tye Sheridan) comes to Joe for a job, Joe sees something worthy in him and agrees. Unfortunately, Gary's cruel, drunk father starts causing trouble, and Joe finds himself looking after Gary. But an old enemy of Joe's has come looking for vengeance, and Joe must keep himself from resorting to violence.
Is it any good?
Young Sheridan (also in The Tree of Life and Mud) gives a strong performance in an emotionally difficult role. But it's Cage who, after two decades' worth of rather terrible movies, proves once again that he's a real actor, capable of pushing himself to dangerous lengths. Gary Poulter, who shows genuine menace as Gary's nasty father, was a local homeless man who had never acted and died after the film wrapped.
Director David Gordon Green has divided his time between broad comedies (Pineapple Express, The Sitter) and thoughtful, lyrical dramas (Snow Angels, Prince Avalanche), but this is the first time he's descended into a world as violent and as hopeless as the one in JOE. Fortunately, Green is as observant as ever, and he not only conjures up a vivid, self-contained universe, but peoples it with fascinating, damaged characters. No matter how lowdown they may appear, Green seems to understand their humanity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Joe's violence. What impact does it have? What does it tell you about the characters? How does it compare to what you might see in a horror movie? Which is more upsetting, and why?
How do you feel about Gary's relationship with his abusive father? How did the other members of his family relate to him? Do you think there are any ways the situation could be improved?
How do you feel about Joe? Can he be forgiven his bad side in favor of all the good he does? Is he a role model for Gary?
- In theaters: April 11, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: June 17, 2014
- Cast: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Ronnie Gene Blevins
- Director: David Gordon Green
- Studios: Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, disturbing material, language and some strong sexual content
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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