But, into Joe's life comes a sapling of sorts - a homeless 15-year-old named Gary (Tye Sheridan from "Mud") who hooks up with the crew, works hard, earns money, only to see most of it stolen by his drunk father, who beats him.
Joe gives a nice speech about Gary being a decent kid "on the fence," poised to to fall either way, and you can sense him moving toward trying to save the boy from the life Joe himself has had to live.
There isn't much doubt about where the story's headed. Getting there, in a character-driven and roundabout way, is what Green's picture is really about.
Sheridan and Cage have a good, surrogate father-son rapport, and Green does a nice job creating scenes of improvised bonhomie among the men on Joe's crew. "Joe" has the feel of a picture that brings local residents and nonprofessionals into its midst, giving it a lived-in sense of place.
The movie, though, makes weird, too-frequent lurches into the lurid. Some of this seems designed to give us permission to applaud the movie's violent conclusion, which follows hard on the heels of a guy donning a rabbit mask to lure a mute girl into the back of a truck.
In those moments, a character study becomes a post-Leatherface Texas horror show, and "Joe" loses its way.