At the center of "Joe's War" is a Marine (Michael Markiewicz) who has completed tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although he returns home to Staten Island, N.Y., physically unscathed, he's a changed man for having witnessed several comrades fall.
He's lost interest in marrying his girlfriend, Sarah (Tina Grimm), hanging with pals and in playing hockey. Indeed, he's lost interest in life in general. He spends much of his waking hours knocking back drink after drink, as unbearable flashbacks to the battlefields come at the most inopportune times — like during sex and in the middle of a job interview. Those around Joe show such little concern; they don't even venture to ask what it was like over there.
The film, unfortunately, treats the important and complex subject of post-traumatic stress disorder in an oversimplified and reductive way. As cowritten by John P. De Meo and Phil Falcone and directed by Falcone, "Joe's War" shows the affliction manifested in few ways other than binge drinking and angry outbursts. The supposedly grisly visions mostly look like military drills. The coping of loved ones and the exorcising of demons likewise ring false here.
These characters' inarticulateness reflects less on their working-class background than on the weak writing and acting. Only Armand Assante, as Joe's Vietnam-veteran therapist, manages to talk some sense into him as well as the proceedings.