Joaquin Phoenix

"Wait, what?" That was the general reaction around The Playlist water cooler when we learned that James Gray's next film, the tentatively titled "Low Life," was already in front of cameras in New York City. And we couldn't be more thrilled.

The film once again finds Gray working with his usual collaborator Joaquin Phoenix ("The Yards," "We Own The Night," "Two Lovers") in a bit of shift in gear for the helmer. Marking his first period outing, "Low Life" will follow the story of a woman immigrating from Poland (Marion Cotillard) whose sister falls ill while sailing to Ellis Island. She is then forced to trade sexual favours for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened and though she does, she is given immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals. With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Joaquin Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York.

Sounds like some impressive, though tough material but there is another talent also on board. Jeremy Renner is lined up to play the sleazebag's cousin, a magician who sweeps the young woman off her feet and gives her hopes of escaping her life, and we presume that once he's done shooting "The Bourne Legacy" in Thailand, he'll zip over to New York City to film his scenes.

Simply put -- Gray is one of the most underrated American directors working. Marketing and trailers have never done justice to his films which move far beyond any genre trappings into something much richer and more complex. And the guy has just been nailing one incredible film after another going all the back to "Little Odessa" (if you haven't seen it, track it down). So yeah, we're super stoked "Low Life" is now rolling and can't wait to see what Gray delivers next in a picture that finds him excitingly working in some new territory both narratively and thematically. [via ComingSoon]