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Entries in Trespass [2011] (1)

Monday
Jan302012

Trespass (2011)

The Last Foreclosure on the Left

Here's a fun little wrench for you keepers of the Nicolas Cage Career Trajectory Scorecard. I've long believed that his body of work can be neatly divided between "serious" films, in which he trades on his star-making, quirky intensity, and bat-shit B-movies whose sole reason for existing boils down to a young director's desire to hang out with Nic Cage and the actor's need to support a mean fossil-buying habit. But in Joel Schumacher's record-shattering 2011 flop, Trespass, Cage proves the mantra he asserted in Ghost Rider: he's the only one who can walk in both worlds.

For the first half of this movie, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Karl Gajdusek's story of an affluent family enduring a home invasion is a by-the-numbers thriller, sure, but nothing suggests that the film would enjoy the quickest theatre-to-home-video cycle in American box office history.*

Cage plays Kyle Miller, a diamond broker on the verge of a very important deal. He's so obsessed that he blows past his wife, Sarah (Nicole Kidman), and daughter, Avery (Liana Liberato), in the middle of a fight over whether the teen can go to a party. Shortly after Kyle has closed the deal and Sarah has cleaned up the dinner she ate alone, Avery sneaks out of the family's expansive, state-of-the-art house. Within minutes, a team of cops shows up, asking to speak to Kyle about some robberies in the area.

No points for guessing that the "cops" are a team of armed thieves who've come to steal diamonds, cash, and, in the case of hunky criminal, Jonah (Cam Gigandet), Sarah's heart. Jonah, we learn, was the security technician who wired the Miller's home; while on the job, he became quite smitten with the bored housewife, and sees this heist as his chance to knock off the competition and start a new, carefree life.

Though this mid-movie revelation counts as a spoiler, I'm fine leaving it right out in the open for all to see. It's just one of Trespass's approximately four-thousand surprises, and will likely get swept under your memory rug with all the others. The movie falls to pieces as Schumacher and Gajdusek introduce a double-cross that morphs into a triple-cross--which becomes a quadruple-cross, and on and on and on. There are more crosses in this movie than in the last twelve exorcism pictures I've seen, and the effect is one of quick-setting apathy.

The only two things keeping this convoluted plot afloat are superb acting by Cage, Kidman, and Ben Mendelsohn as Elias, the thieves' tough-as-nails leader,** and several hilarious but captivating scenes in which characters monologue like there's no tomorrow--even though I'm pretty sure that, were this situation real, such monologue-ing would lead to a few characters not having tomorrows. I was fascinated by Kyle's argument as to why handing over the diamonds to a bunch of amateurs was a dumb idea, but all that information gummed up the characters' mouths worse than if Kevin Smith had scripted Shoot 'Em Up.

More interesting to me was Cage playing an off-brand-oatmeal Bernie Madoff-type. When he flips his lid on the invaders the contrast is as delicious as it is ridiculous. For her part, Kidman is mostly asked to mope, cry, scream, and run. But she does so in sufficiently movie-star fashion. I didn't believe her as a homemaker, but I did buy her as Nicole Kidman trying to survive an assault by low-lives--which, in this case, is just splitting hairs. She fares better than the other female adult in the cast, Jordana Spiro, whose turn as Elias' stoned, crazy girlfriend/accomplice served only to give me flashbacks to the Last House on the Left remake (a movie I enjoyed unironically).

The film gets some points for trying, but loses too many in other areas to the whole package seriously. Once the revelations start hitting the fan, it becomes impossible to overlook the seams in Schumacher's sketchy directing (take a shot every time the camera makes a blurry rolling motion, accompanied by a whooshing sound). I get the feeling that everyone involved thought they were making a tight, psychological thriller--as opposed to a Nic Cage Paycheck Special. The movie's theme of lies and the recession are legit-movie fodder, but when coupled with cumbersome Wikipedia dialogue and character twists that are more soapy than suspenseful, Trespass strays way too far into places it doesn't belong.

Trivia: Talk about poor money-management: the movie cost $35 million to make, but grossed only $25,000 (yep, that's thousand) during its cameo appearance in theatres.

*Eighteen days, a handy defeat for the previous title-holder, From Justin to Kelly, which held on for just under a month.

**OR IS HE?!