Mark Reviews Movies

Trespass (2011)


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Ben Mendelsohn, Liana Liberato, Cam Gigandet, Jordana Spiro, Dash Mihok

MPAA Rating: R (for violence and terror, pervasive language and some brief drug use)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 10/14/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 13, 2011

The criminals in Trespass are so incredibly stupid it is simply a wonder that they do not wind up killing themselves or each other in the middle of their heist. They're the kind of robbers for whom even putting on masks might present a challenge; I imagine at least one of them risking suffocation before realizing it's on backwards.

The only reason these people manage to last as long as they do is because of the stubbornness of one member of the family they take hostage and the perhaps even greater incompetence of a home security company. I also imagine phone calls to various security companies from the movie's producers seeking possible product placement and the howls of laughter when it's revealed that the script features an operator buying into one of the thieves' frantic explanation for why no member of the family can make it to the phone right now. We more than half anticipate the thief to tell the operator that the family's tied up at the moment. They may be dumb, but even idiocy has its limits. It's a terribly funny movie, and it's clear the humor that rises out of Karl Gajdusek's screenplay is unintentional.

The Miller family lives a life of luxury in a lavish, sparsely decorated house off the beaten path—secluded from the rest of the world. Patriarch Kyle (Nicolas Cage) runs shady business deals involving lots of cash and diamonds in briefcases. The punctuated irony of his character is that in the process of attempting to provide the best for his family he has essentially separated himself from them. We see this in his wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman), who puts on a sexy black dress for a home-cooked meal with her regularly absent-on-business husband only to hear from him that he has to go out yet again on business. Her simmering sexual suppression turns out to be Sarah's defining trait. Daughter Avery (Liana Liberato), meanwhile, is in a rebellious stage and sneaks out to attend a party to which both her mother and father have said she can't go.

That turns out to be the best for her—at least temporarily—as two men disguised as police officers arrive at the family's door and hold guns to Kyle's face when he opens it. They want the diamonds they know are in Kyle's safe, and they aren't leaving until they get what they want.

We know that they know Kyle has diamonds because they tell him, and Gajdusek wants to ensure that we know how they know by inserting flashbacks of leader Elias (Ben Mendelsohn) and his younger brother Jonah (Cam Gigandet) watching Kyle as he goes about his transactions during the course of a normal work day. If the old cinematic rule is showing the audience instead of telling them, there's surely an addendum that, if you already have characters telling their actions, there's absolutely no reason to go ahead and show the actions again. It's redundant, and Gajdusek's screenplay is full of such ludicrous flashbacks that pull us out of the intended claustrophobic nightmare of his home-invasion story and into the realm of absurdly unnecessary exposition.

The story's hook is that Kyle has a better grip on the robbers' trade than they do. They want the diamonds, they tell him; he asks if they know someone who'll be able to cut them (The Gemological Institute of America will be thrilled to know they are a major plot point in a movie, or at least until its members see it). Give us the money then, they demand; he hopes they're aware that his entire enterprise is really a front to keep his family unaware of their dire financial situation. He's actually broke and bleeding from debt. This makes Ty (Dash Mihok), the murder-minded muscle of the operation who's working for some big-time drug dealer (That, of course, is more information we learn in flashback), very unhappy. Petal (Jordana Spiro), Elias' crack-addicted girlfriend, is along for the ride just to complicate matters further than they already are.

Director Joel Schumacher has the unenviable task of streamlining a needlessly convoluted script and instead has his actors throttling their dialogue in shouting matches (If the gag—as it appears to be early on—is that Kyle is supposed to be the clear-headed one, no one told Cage, who has a few of his trademarked freak-out moments; one involving the phrase "filthy lust" is priceless). Flashbacks follow upon flashbacks, and even the present-moment material starts to become ridiculous. Kyle's prescription for his glasses is apparently so strong that he is unable to see things right in front of his face without them. Then there's the sequence with the security company, which is laughably preposterous.

I enjoy noting the various uses of the famous device of a Chekhov's gun, especially when there's no gun involved. Trespass has a keeper. Despite the fact that there—sitting in a safe in the first act and which Avery starts to make her way towards in the third act—is an actual gun, Gajdusek bypasses it entirely for a dead-man's curve to the solve the problem. Some friendly, unsolicited advice: Just use the gun.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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