Will Pfeifer: Peter Boyle shines in 'Joe,' a grim ’70 flick
Lately, I’ve been reading “Nixonland,” Rick Perlstein’s epic history of the Tricky Dick era that illustrates in amazing detail just how America became such a fractured country.
It’s a great book, but if you don’t want to plow through 900 pages of hippies versus hard hats, I have a simple solution: Rent “Joe” instead.
Released in 1970, midway through Nixon’s first term, “Joe” tells the story of Bill (Dennis Patrick), a rich businessman who confronts the drug-dealing boyfriend of his daughter (Susan Sarandon in her film debut) and accidentally kills him. When he stumbles into a bar to compose himself, he meets Joe (Peter Boyle), a straight-talking factory worker who congratulates Bill on the killing, then befriends him, hoping they can do more of the same together.
Aside from a silly, dated scene where Joe and Bill encounter a couple of free-loving hippie chicks, “Joe” is a grim portrait of Vietnam-era America. From the moment Joe and Bill meet, the movie heads toward a decidedly dark finale, and the nasty twist at the end does not disappoint.
But the best thing about the movie is Boyle. A staunch liberal in real life (John Lennon was his best man), he’s utterly convincing as a blue-collar guy frightened and angered by what the world is becoming. After this role, in fact, he swore off violent roles for years, even turning down the lead in “The French Connection.”
Will Pfeifer writes about new DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on Fridays. Contact him email@example.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog atblogs.e-rockford.com/movieman/. See video reviews atgo.rrstar.com.