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Nicolas Cage: Can ‘Joe’ Take Him From Meme Back to Movie Star?

Thriller begs similar comparisons to Matthew McConaughey's 2012 career jolt 'Mud'

After a string of mid-sized thriller box office disappointments, Nicolas Cage is sorely in need of his own McConaissance, the career resurgence coined for Matthew McConaughey, whose path to Oscar glory began in 2012 with low-budget hits “Mud” and “Magic Mike.”

For Cage, who earned his Oscar nearly two decades ago for “Leaving Las Vegas,” Roadside Attractions’ “Joe” — a Southern-set tale of redemption, which launches Friday — could be that necessary launchpad for renewed respect as an actor.

Outside each pic’s leading man, both of whom hit a rut at the B.O. previously, the comparisons between “Joe” and “Mud,” though mostly coincidental, provide interesting food for thought:

  • Both films were released by Roadside in April. “Mud” kickstarted its domestic run on April 26 and went on to become one of the highest-grossing indie releases that year, with more than $20 million Stateside.
  • However, before their U.S. openings, each pic bowed at a prestigious European film festival — “Mud” had its world premiere in Cannes, while “Joe” debuted last year at the Venice Film Festival.
  • Though Roadside ultimately went wider with “Mud” during opening weekend (pic bowed at 363 locations vs. 48 for “Joe”), both films require a considered platform roll-out that relies on positive word-of-mouth. So far, “Joe” has scored an 84% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes; “Mud” received a 98% appraisal.

On the creative side:

  • Coincidentally, teenage actor Tye Sheridan (“The Tree of Life”) plays the youthful moral compass to both McConaughey’s and Cage’s hardened older counterparts.
  • Southern settings. While “Mud” was shot in Arkansas, “Joe” also utilized the South, lensing in Austin, Texas.
  • Helming duties landed with two separate Arkansas-natives each with similar movie cred. Before “Joe,” David Gordon Green cut his teeth on well-received indies “George Washington” (2000) and “All the Real Girls” ( 2003). Jeff Nichols, meanwhile, wrote and directed “Shotgun Stories” (2007) and “Take Shelter” (2011).

In recent years the hard-working Cage, who averages two or three films per year, has become the root of a snarky Internet fascination, which has little to do with his acting chops. (You can buy pillowcases with his face on them!)

Though the waning mega-star, who has appeared in such past box office hits as “The Rock” and the “National Treasure” franchise, hasn’t often translated his online popularity to B.O. dollars (consider such recent duds as “Trespass,” “Stolen” and “The Frozen Ground”), “Joe” may be able to restore some of Cage’s credibility — at least as a serious actor.

Variety‘s Justin Chang calls Cage’s work in the film an “excellent, tightly wound performance (that) represents the film’s most lucrative angle.”



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