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With the 2013 film Prince Avalanche and The Frozen Ground, director David Gordon Green and actor Nicolas Cage respectively and in varying returns made the kinds of films that utilize each for his strengths - and not snarky Internet fodder. They came together for the upcoming drama Joe, which just released its first U.S. theatrical trailer, and it’s a much bigger step in the right direction for both of them. It’s not a good day for beards, mind you, as none of them look very good, but we’ll grin and bear(d) it if this film ends up being as good as this trailer.

Cage stars as the marquee-named Joe Ransom, a wound-up fella with a dark past weighing down his already hunched shoulders. His job isn’t exactly legal, but he takes on the help of a young boy named Gary (Tye Sheridan) whose home life isn’t something you’d wish on a passing enemy. Joe realizes that Gary needs a father figure to replace the drunkard abuser at home, but recognizes himself in the man as well. And one that inevitably accepts the consequences of his actions, whatever those may be.

The trailer, courtesy of Apple, wastes no time in letting Cage tell us exactly who he is in life: a personable vagabond whose future is determined more by moments than plans. While it’s easy to picture the actor flying frantically off the cuff and zipping into a bee-filled rage, it’s really nice to see him seethe internally while gruffly relaying situations, rather than hollering them over a streaming waterfall or something. I really miss non-ironically enjoyable Nicolas Cage.

Joe already gained quite a bit of critical acclaim coming out of its festival run last year (which continues with SXSW 2014), but it’s great to see the trailers play to the film’s standard rather than trying to capture audiences with something more sensational or mysterious. Sheridan appears as mentally assured as he did in Jeff Nichols’ Mud, and I’m especially drawn to Gary Poulter, who plays the alcoholic father. A homeless man-turned-actor whose life story gave his character authenticity, Poulter unfortunately died of an alcohol-related drowning just two months after Joe wrapped production, giving it a slightly eerie reputation before it even comes out. Especially when he says the line, "A person just don’t know from one day to the next which one is gonna be their last." He looks positively monstrous, and I can’t wait to witness his one and only starring role.

Following its March 9th screening at SXSW, Joe will spread its theatrical wings on April 11th. Check out the slightly different and more violent French version of the trailer below the film’s new poster, which is quite close to images we’ve already seen before.

joe poster