This is “Southern rough” at its grittiest

Nicolas Cage does so much crap these days that it’s a surprise when he actually uses his immense talent. And his textured, rewarding performance here brings to mind Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. This is “Southern rough” at its grittiest.

Joe is a tightly-wound ex-con with a heart of gold who runs a work crew. He’s constantly struggling to restrain his more violent side, but he cares, and when he witnesses the abuse suffered by one of his new hires, an itinerant 15-year-old lad (Tye Sheridan, Mud), at the hands of his murderous father (a frightening Gary Poulter, cast from the streets!), he steps in. Japanese title: Grand Joe. (117 min)