Joe (Blu-ray Review)

Joe - www.whysoblu.comI did not get to see Joe in theaters due to it opening in only handful of cities and the one screening that was in my area was still quite a ways away. I had heard some rumblings about how good he film was and about how good Nicolas Cage was. I’m always glad when I can discover something new on Blu-ray. Joe is directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness), so it was a real surprise to see his name in the credits. It’s also really cool when directors transcend genres. Let us see how Joe stacked up on Blu-ray.  




Joe is the story of…Joe (Nicolas Cage), an ex-con who is trying to do good by working hard and staying out of trouble. Along the way, 15-year old Gary stumbles on Joe and his crew of tree “killers.” Well, they’re not really tree killers. What Joe and his crew come in and do is use their chopping equipment to the remaining trees left out in the forest by the slumber company that hired them. This was a neat thing to watch, because the backpacks and axes they use to deaden the trees make everyone there look like a Ghostbuster. Once they chop into the tree the hose that’s connected to their backpack and axe runs poison through it and they rinse and repeat with that technique.

Gary asks Joe for a job and is taken in and given some equipment and is put to work. What Joe doesn’t know is that Gary has an alcoholic and abusive father named Wade (Gary Poulter) who is constantly getting the family and himself in trouble. For all intents and purposes Gary, his father, and rest of the family are pretty much homeless and are squatting in an abandoned house out in the woods. Joe has to pretty much try to stay in the clear, because drama is what he doesn’t need and knows that Gary and his father bring nothing but drama.

Joe has a bit of quiet intensity built up but I figure that’s what prison does to a person. Joe is out and has finally become a bit successful and all of the townsfolk know that he’s trying to do right by hiring locals and helping out the occasional resident. Gary wants the same, a chance to prove his quality. This, of course, is impossible since Wade basically beats and takes Gary’s money away to buy more alcohol. Honestly, the film is surprisingly intense and surprisingly real. Director David Gordon Green chose to cast, for the most part, non-actors in their roles. It[s a tricky proposition but the way some of these folks talk and interact with each other is totally real. It really is “fly-on-wall” filmmaking – John Cassavates style perhaps.

The one person that does shine and rises to the top is Gary Poulter. In his first and last role (Poulter died a few months after filming was completed) Poulter creates a horrible character that is funny, interesting, and evil. Gary Poulter was in fact homeless and discovered on the streets and Gordon Green fought to have him cast. Aside from Cage, Poulter really does give a great performance. Honestly, I do not know if the film will be considered a 2014 release since it premiered and played the festival circuit in 2013 but if it does qualify I do hope that Gary Poulter is acknowledged. Seriously, he gives an Oscar-worthy performance and I was riveted watching him do his thing.

The rest of the cast fares equally as well and Joe trying to repress his violent side is an additional story arc, because it’s a gradual and slow build before he goes off the rails. In fact, Joe doesn’t start to go “crazy” until a bit after the one-hour mark. Up until then you watch Joe as he begins to boil. Honestly, and in retrospect, having just seen the film a little while ago I will go so far as to say that it deserves a spot on my Top-10 list of 2014. I hope more people get the opportunity to watch it now it’s available on Blu-ray. I will warn folks that it’s a really REAL film.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Contrast levels are nice natural with no apparent signs of tweaking. Sharpness levels appear normal and I did not notice any signs of ringing.

Depth: You can get lost looking at this picture, because it is very natural looking with only hint or two of softness.

Black Levels: Black levels only ever slightly crush but it is miniscule.

Color Reproduction: The color field is pretty damn brilliant. Banding is absent as are any anomalies that would interfere with the color palette. The outdoor scenes, and there are quite a few, look epic.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are nice and natural and everyone looks as healthy as can be, with the exception of G-Daawg.

Noise/Artifacts: Noise and other instances of debris, etc., were nowhere to be found on this excellent looking Blu-ray.




Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Joe is a low budget film meaning that it would not have many scenes of intense action. The sound mix reflects this but it’s also a near reference soundtrack in what it does offer. Quietness and intensity are randomly interrupted with scenes of graphic violence enhanced by this lossless DTS track. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but the audio tracks on some of these Blu-rays that I’ve been reviewing lately are spectacular in the sound department.

Low Frequency: There several scenes that feature gunfire and random violence that are given the big “oomph” in the LFE department. It was very much appreciated.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels are mainly used for ambience but they do carry some weight in the more dynamic scenes.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crystal clear and it has to be due to the very thick southern accents displayed. I had no trouble understanding anyone.



Joe has a few extras worth talking about. There’s a very entertaining audio commentary with director David Gordon Green his co-composer and actor Brian D. Mays. Other special features on the Blu-ray are a neat making of featurette along with a profile look at the origins of Joe. Two deleted scenes round out the special features.

  • Commentary with Director David Gordon Green, Composer David Wingo and Actor Brian D. Mays – This commentary is an entertaining and pretty straightforward romp at what went into the making of Joe. Green keeps things moving along while remaining on point and casually discussing the hardships and fun they had making the film.
  • The Making of Joe Featurette – A very neat and in-depth look at what it took to bring Joe to he big screen. For such a low-key picture it certainly was not that easy to get it made.
  • The Long Gravel Drive: The Origins of Joe Featurette – This featurette features the director and screenwriter along with some cast members as they talk about author Larry Brown and the origins of his “grit lit” characters and genera he helped carve out.
  • Deleted Scenes – There are two deleted scenes that were trimmed and removed altogether. I agree with the choice in leaving them out.



 Joe is an excellent film and it definitely needs to be seen by more people. Since the film premiered at festivals in 2013 I don’t know if the Oscars will allow for any nominations but let’s just say that Gary Poulter deserves a posthumous award. He single handedly steals the show and is quite memorable. Cage is also remarkably good as he lays much restraint to his character. The Blu-ray from Lionsgate is tip-top in quality along with a humorous and informative commentary and a few special features added for good taste. Okay, what are you waiting for? Go get Joe on Blu-ray!



Order Joe on Blu-ray!

Joe - www.whysoblu.com


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Joe (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Hmm. I still want to see this one, but I did not know was directed by David Gordon Green. I absolutely hated Pineapple and Highness so that would have scared me away, but I’m willing to try this one out since it comes highly recommended from everyone else.