Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lights On, Nobody Home: TRESPASS

Trespass is what is known as a bad movie, plain and simple. It’s phony to its core. The movie comes from director Joel Schumacher who has made some good movies and some bad ones over the course of his career. This is definitely a bad one. It’s a home invasion thriller that’s only the slightest mood shift away from being a flat-out comedy. It’s a film of stupid criminals and lousy hostages that keeps inventing new reasons to keep the characters in the same place well past any kind of logic, internal or otherwise.

The movie starts when the rich man (Nicolas Cage) comes home to his wife (Nicole Kidman) and daughter (Liana Liberato). We know he’s rich because we hear the sound of Cage rapidly negotiating the price of a diamond accompanying the opening aerial shot that tracks his convertible down a long winding road leading to their beachfront steel-and-glass mansion that’s tucked away in the forest. Once there, he continues to negotiate while he tries to help his wife make sure their willful teenage daughter doesn’t get to the local bad girl’s house for a party.

The girl huffs upstairs and the husband and wife prepare for their evening, which is soon interrupted by a home invasion. A group of thieves barges in and waves around their guns while barking for security codes. It turns out they know about the diamonds and would really like them. There’s the conflict. It’s a good thing that the daughter snuck out of the house and sped away in a friends car just a scene or two earlier.  

What follows is filled with yelling, whining, cajoling, pleading, and frustrated barking from all of the characters all of the time. It’s monotonous. As the head of the gang, Ben Mendelsohn stalks about while his gang members wander around looking mean, constantly waving around guns that make clickety-clack noises at the slightest touch. These crooks are so obvious that you can size them up in a second, like the henchman played by Cam Gigandet who will pretty clearly end up being the criminal with second thoughts since he gets so shifty eyed in his every reaction shot. Collectively the gang seems to be pretty dumb. They keep changing their demands and producing different threatening objects. It’s like they want to hang around this house for some time.

Have they even thought this plan through? Sure, they have electrical tape around their fingertips, but their masks are so porous I was identifying the actors underneath them almost immediately. And all Cage has to do is start poking holes in their scheme and the characters get to sit around and threaten each other all night. At one point the daughter sneaks back into the house and walks straight into the danger. Why? If she were smart enough to call for help the movie would be over.

Karl Gajdusek’s script does everything it can to keep the movie rolling forward beyond all plausibility. The homeowners are able to take their captors off task with such skill that I found myself hoping for some ultimate ludicrous twist that never materializes despite the ever-growing pile of ludicrous twists and diversions. This is the kind of movie in which the intelligence of any given character at any given time is dependent solely on what the plot requires at that point. These aren’t characters. These are barely caricatures. It’s all one big phony construct. This is barely a film. It’s a feature-length stalling tactic that keeps the characters, and the audience, locked up in this house well past any reason they should be.

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