Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Trespass" (2011)

Starring Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman and Ben Mendelsohn
Written by Eli Richbourg and Karl Gajdusek
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Rated R - Violence, language, drug use
Running Time: 91 Minutes

So what's the deal with Nicolas Cage?  Is it really his money troubles that keep him bouncing from one terrible movie to another?

Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a slick diamond dealer, a middle-man for people looking to sell or purchase diamonds.  He lives at home in his incomplete mansion, which he's have trouble with the contractor to finish, with his lovely wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman) and teenage daughter Avery (Liana Liberto).  One evening, after Avery sneaks out to go to a party, some men come to the door posing as police officers to talk to the Millers about recent break-ins in the area.

Kyle lets them in, not knowing that these men are, in fact, robbers themselves. They grab Kyle and Sarah and bring them into Kyle's office where they attempt to coerce him into opening the safe, where they believe they will find a large cache of unsold diamonds.  Kyle says he can open the safe and give them the diamonds, if the men let his wife go safely, but then reveals that because the diamonds have been etched and their ownership registered with a national agency, they will be useless to the thieves because they can't be sold.

The stakes grow bigger when Avery returns home early from the party, however, giving the thieves another hostage to bargain with.  As Kyle does everything in his power to keep his family alive, the thieves grow more desperate as things begin to go wrong for them.  And Kyle begins to realize that his family may not be the only hostages, for one of the thieves reveals that he's being forced to rob from Kyle to save his own life.  But who can Kyle trust?  And how will any of them live through the night?

"Trespass" is a pretty poor thriller.  It tries to throw some twists and turns into the plot to make things interesting, but ultimately the whole thing is ruined by the fact that the script mostly boils down to a bunch of people shouting at each other for 90 minutes.  Most of the action in the film is confined to a single room, which might make for an interesting, taught thriller if the writers were capable of generating any actual tension.  But rarely is there a conversation in this film worth listening to, and most of the twists come across as silly or even annoying.

Nicolas Cage does his best to overact; he clearly wants Kyle to be a meek man who rises to the occasion to save his family, at the same time shamed by the revelations being made about himself and the family's finances as the hostage situation wears on.  Again, a good idea, but the execution is foul.  Cage stammers and shouts through the entire film, and really only has about two emotions on display here.

Likewise, the thieves are all of a single dimension.  The female, apparently named Petal (Jordana Spiro) though I don't recall any of their names being spoken aloud - that may have happened, but the characters in "Trespass" are so basic and unmemorable that it might just have slipped away instead - spends most of the film high on drugs and stumbling about in Nicole Kidman's closet.  Jonah (Cam Gigandet) is apparently psychotic, but the film doesn't throw this at us until late in the game when it's revealed that his supposed affair with Sarah is totally false.

I could go on and on about the rest of the bad acting, but I won't bother.  Director Joel Schumacher has a rather polarizing career.  He's made films that are considered cult classics, some reasonably entertaining thrillers, and some truly atrocious comic book adaptations.  The man is all over the place; I enjoyed much of "Phone Booth," and he's made some respected thrillers like "A Time to Kill" and "Falling Down."  But since "Trespass" doesn't have the camp value of "Batman and Robin" it isn't even that type of bad movie that one can still enjoy.  It's 91 minute running time feels like a slog, and more than once I looked at the progress and thought, "There's still that much left?"

I'm also hard-pressed to understand how a film like this cost $35 million.  Most of the movie takes place in one house, and most of that takes place in one room, as well as the adjoining kitchen.  I can only assume that some rather large salaries were paid out in this film, because I really can't see such a small, claustrophobic movie costing that much money even if the entire house is built as a set.

Hostage thrillers can be a fine subject for film; indeed, there are many good ones out there.  "Trespass" is not one of them.