David Gordon Green's Joe is low on suspense, low on atmosphere, low on technical brilliance. It marks the next step up in his ascent to the more independent-minded features of his early career, but a step down in quality from Prince Avalanche. Green directs with a fecklessness that gets in the way of all of the good notions he, his cast and his crew try to develop. His visual storytelling is lame, the images limp and perfunctory, the engendering of texture and tone in any particular instant cut short by Green's hurriedness and his callousness. Joe is a bizarre combination of moods as a film, jostling between all manner of cinematic sub-genres. That makes it rather a mess, and not an endearing or interesting one to much extent either, since this mess feels incidental, a byproduct of Green's whims and the motions of the story. Even as Green eventually amalgamates his plot threads, there's a surreal quality witnessing these characters assembled in the same space, since they have formerly existed mostly in isolation of each other, and frequently in sections of the film of highly different natures. And there's a deflating effect as the conclusion draws closer, and we become ever more aware of the machinations of this plot, and how what appeared to be quaint circumstance and randomness was actually all by design. Green has a great knack for implying a history and a future for his characters in the way he writes and directs actors, and he doesn't need figures as clearly-defined as these to make them vivid and memorable. Powerful in the immediate moment it may be, but with the romantic optimism surrounding Joe's two main roles in juxtaposition with the depravity and despair elsewhere, he winds up sensationalising and over-emphasising, something that undercuts the low-key drama and droll humour he employs. The musical score is the only single element of the film that stands out, and only because of its incessancy and its obviousness.