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The Boston Globe

Movies

Movie Review

In ‘Joe,’ prettily plumbing the lower depths

You can sometimes tell a filmmaker’s attitude toward his characters by their teeth. In David Gordon Green’s Grand Guignol meets Grand Ole Opry adaptation of Larry Brown’s 1991 novel, “Joe,” almost everybody has bad teeth and Green makes sure you notice. I would have said that they probably spent more on dental prosthetics than on catering, except many in the cast are actual homeless people and the teeth are their own. Make of that what you will, but I can’t help thinking of Ben Stiller’s “Zoolander,” in which a fashion designer shows off his new clothing line called “Derelicte.”

As the title character, Nicolas Cage looks like he has pretty good teeth. But he’s one angry guy, not unlike his namesake played by Peter Boyle in the 1970 movie of the same title. Pushing 50, a heavy drinker, a hacking chain-smoker, and a frequenter of prostitutes, he’s the nicest guy in the movie. Like Jonathan Swift, his breast is lacerated by savage indignation, and having no gift for satiric prose, he just beats the crap out of people. That has gotten him some prison time, but now he’s settled down running a crew of workers that poisons trees for property developers.

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