JOE (1970)


Cinematography & Directed By: John G. Avildsen 
Written By: Norman Wexler 
Editor: George T. Norris 

Cast: Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick, Susan Sarandon, 

 Bill, a wealthy businessman, confronts his junkie daughter’s drug-dealing boyfriend; in the ensuing argument, Bill kills him. Panic-stricken, he wanders the streets and eventually stops at a bar. There he runs into a drunken factory worker named Joe, who hates hippies, blacks, and anyone who is “different”, and would like to kill one himself. The two start talking, and Bill reveals his secret to Joe. Complications ensue. 

The film seems to have a republican ideology, that seems to paint it’s leads as heroes, but also exposes their hypocrisy, Especially as they seem to be worse than those they dislike so much. What I like about this film is it doesn’t make a choice. Each character who is in themselves represents an aspect of society at the time is given a fair but harsh treatment.


Peter Boyle plays the title character a darker moody Archie bunker racist. Only more angry and violent. It’s amazing for an actor who was more known to be more liberal and seemed to be more of a comedic actor. To portray a powerful dramatic role like this and be truly believable and mesmerizing is a feat in of itself. Especially considering he is playing the title character and doesn’t appear until 27 minutes into the film. Not only makes his presence felt throughout the rest of the film. He haunts you even after the film.

The characters grow more and more unlikeable as the film goes along. There is only one sacred character really and that person is barely in the film The film shows the ideological hippies and their bad side. The hippies are portrayed with an ideal but also misguided and some more as desperate criminals and junkies, just looking for money for the next high through scams and hustles. As they more or less put the women they love but don’t own to work yet collect and spend all the money.

As the main Character breaks down he finds himself sinking to the same lows that he held himself above when it came to his unlikely friendship with the Brutish Joe. At least Joe knows who he is what is in his Character. Dennis Patrick still thinks he is civilized and above it all but when pressured he caves and proves himself to be worse as he betrays his morals and himself totally and paying the price in the end though we never get to see when he realizes it.

Peter Boyle wrote a screenplay for a proposed sequel where Joe gets released from jail and has to deal with his hippie-like son. In the ’80s, Cannon Pictures kept announcing each year for several years that the project was in “pre-production”, though the project was ultimately scrapped. Which is interesting considering Reaction to this film disturbed actor Peter Boyle for years. He refused the lead role in The French Connection and other roles that glamorized violence after people cheered his role in this project.


When i first saw the film it struck me as original, since most movies always portrayed hippies as so happy and free, almost mythical but here shows the drug addiction, the abuse, the mistreatment of women and std’s from free love. Each aspect has it’s valid points but it also goes their shallowness and after all the speaking about morals. It shows how fast they will drop their ideals to fit immediate needs, but the film is more he. That It shows the slow decline of the main character. The bourgeois character due to the influence mainly of his so called friend Joe really his devil’s advocate almost like his I’d. Even though he shows contempt to Joe as the movie moves forward we realize how alike the two of them are.


One of the reasons I believe The film is named after him Is that though just more of a supporting character who is in most of the scenes Peter Boyle is unforgettable in this role. He was Oscar nominated and it’s easy to see why as his character seems to give the film definition as he seems to be injected into scenes he isn’t even in or hope to see him come back. The 70’s were Boyle’s heyday appearing in back to back classic films TAXI DRIVER, THE CANDIDATE, HARDCORE his film though this one seems more or less forgotten

The film is mostly about ideology until the third act where it becomes violent . The ironic thing is that in real life Boyle was a known hippie and activist. This role allows him to kind of play the enemy. It shows his range considering he usually plays comedic roles or vile villains, but that is the life of a character actor


This is One of Susan Sarandon’s earlier works it’s amazing to see her so fresh faced, vibrant and young. When you have grown up with her being the embodiment of the sexy older middle aged woman. The prototype for the cougar.

The film feels like it has exploitation aspirations, but succeeds more as a time capsule and a political hard hitting drama. It feels like a social issue film, but plays more as a less diabolical character piece. As you know where the story might go or at least where the characters might, but not as far as they eventually do I never saw Dennis Patrick in too many other movies after this one. He is really good in the lead.

It’s almost strange to watch a film about older protagonists and their journeys. These days as most films even dramas seem to be set with teenagers, twenty something’s in love and the plight of the middle aged usually with special effects or a sci-fi story so it’s nice to experience adult drama for a change. Even if it has to be a film from the past


Grade: B+

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