Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Actor's performance makes "Joe" special

Cleveland Press August 21, 1970

What makes "Joe" an important movie and not just another cheap imitative exploitation movie (which it sometimes is) is the actor who plays the title role.

Once in a while an actor comes along who does more than portray a character. He is the character. He lives it.

PETER BOYLE IS JOE and Joe is a slob. After a day at the factory he sits in a bar and between beer belches announces in his raw, unvarnished language exactly what he thinks. He gripes about blacks, hippies, social workers, liberals. They are all commie punks and pot smokers and other things unprintable.

"Forty-two per cent of the liberals are queer, and that's a fact," he confides. "Some Wallace people took a poll."

At home he gets the latest on TV soap opera characters from his wife. He is upset because his kid wants a motorcycle and he is filled with rage because a colored family moved in nearby. When matters get too much for him he heads for the basement and his gun collection.

At the other end of the economic spectrum is Compton (Dennis Patrick), a $60,000 a year advertising executive.

COMPTON HAS A DAUGHTER (Susan Sarandon) who is living with a junkie. The girl takes a bad trip on strong drugs, ends up in the hospital. Compton goes to her East Village room, meets the boy friend and in a rage kills him.

Wandering into a bar, he sits next to Joe, hears him shout how he'd like to kill anyone who sells drugs. "I just did," Compton mutters softly.

Within a day or so Joe has figured out the connection between Compton and stories about a murdered junkie. He looks up Compton, asks for a meeting but not to put the squeeze on him, but out of admiration.

"I talk about it. You did it," he says. It's a clear case of hero worship.

The script is by Norman Wexler, the recent Play House resident playwright. The story structure is crude, logic doesn't always prevail and most of the characters are caricature. But Wexler has an ear for speech

THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE in the case of Joe's dialog and at times it is difficult to determine if it is the original material or the actor that makes it sound right.

In the generation gap-drug-sex category of movies, "Joe" differs principally in that it is told from the older, reactionary viewpoint while making no case for it.

Some of the rationale for what happens is as manipulated as it was in "Easy Rider" or "Getting Straight."

It is a movie that falls easily into the purely exploitative, commercial type scenes. The two men, looking for the girl who has run away, end up in a hippie pad with a couple of nude girls. "This is an orgy, ain't it," asks Joe, pronouncing orgy with a hard "g."

THE ENDING IS A COMBINATION of conclusions out of "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Easy Rider." The blood bath climax has become so common that there must be a strong streak of sado-masochistic impulses in audiences.

But for all of its crudities; its raw, gutter language (and this picture can be very, very crude), "Joe" strikes a nerve and often strikes it honestly.

Joe is very real, an emerging man of the '70's, almost innocent in his simple savagery. But he is no simple man but a highly complex one - motivated by economics, envy, sexual frustration and perhaps even an honest longing for a simpler life.