Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: "Trespass"

I really have to wonder why Nicole Kidman chose to take part in Joel Schumacher's Trespass. Did she want an easy paycheck? Did she owe someone a favor? Did she want to get kissed by Cam Gigandet? Did her double duties as star and producer of Rabbit Hole wear her out and cloud her judgement? I would hope that it's one of the above, because there's really no reason why an actress of her caliber is slumming it in this second (third? fourth?) rate home-invasion thriller. The man in the director's chair certainly doesn't help matters.

Ever a hit-and-miss director, Joel Schumacher has been on something of a downward spiral recently, and Trespass does absolutely nothing to reverse the trend. Kyle and Sarah Miller (Nicholas Cage and Kidman, respectively) are a wealthy couple with a teenaged daughter. Kyle does...well, honestly, it doesn't matter. You just need to know that diamonds are involved. One night, while trying to keep their daughter Avery (Liana Liberato) from going to a friend's party (she sneaks out anyway), the couple are overtaken by burglars. What starts as a seemingly regular robbery spirals out of control as the burglars' identities and backstories come to light.

All in all, it's not a terrible premise for a thriller, but in the end it's execution that counts, and good lord, are there problems with the execution. Though it establishes the Miller family and gets to the robbery efficiently, the more Trespass goes on, the further down the rabbit hole of stupidity it goes. The script, by Karl Gajdusek, certainly deserves a lot of the blame. Characters, both burglars and victims, make increasingly dumb decisions just so the plot can agonizingly protract itself. It says a lot about a movie when the smartest (I'm using that term lightly) character is the angsty teenaged daughter. Aspects like this ruin whatever B-movie funTrespass might have held for its audience, barring a few unintentionally funny lines. But the bigger, and more distracting, offender is Schumacher's direction, which appears to have been limited to telling his performers to say each line louder than the last. So for all of the screaming, pointed guns, death threats, broken glass, and attempts at improvised kidney-removal surgery (yes, you read that correctly), there's rarely a moment when any tension materializes.

It's really a shame, because there's enough talent among the cast to make this feel like a wasted opportunity, rather than shameless junk. Ben Mendelsohn, last seen giving a chilling performance in Animal Kingdom, makes a perfectly compelling ring-leader, while Kidman and Liberato give passable performances (though they're often reduced to yelling at the top of their lungs). Cage, often the subject of ridicule these days, does OK for himself too, dialing it down and never going any more over the top than the rest of the ensemble. There are, however, two dead weights in the cast who drag it all down. First is Jordana Spiro as the lone female burglar. The script tries to liven up the character by giving her a drug addiction, though all it really adds it the opportunity to see Ms. Spiro strut about in her underwear for no justifiable reason. Her acting certainly doesn't help matters; at least when most everyone else is yelling, it's believable, regardless of how shrill and exhausting it all is. That is, except for Cam Gigandet. To say that this is an actor who has gotten by on his looks would be an understatement. Where I previously remembered him as the worst part of Easy A, now I get to remember him as the worst part of Trespass. You can almost feel what little stardom he has evaporating as the movie goes on. To be fair the performance is actually acceptable for the first act or so of the film. Unfortunately, in an attempt to keep us on our toes, Gajdusek inserts one of his dumb little twists. Turns out Gigandet's character is a bit of a closet psychotic who wants to 'rescue' Sarah. I rest my case.

On the technical front there's really nothing worth mentioning. Lighting is acceptable and appropriately moody without being ridiculous, and the score, while predictable, never becomes intrusive. I might have to reconsider that last sentence though, because I spent a good deal more time watching Ms. Kidman's weave unravel (it truly is a wonder) than I did really soaking in the film's production values. However, to sum things up, as far as production values go, it's perfectly adequate, with virtually nothing that would make you think that Trespass was originally headed straight to DVD. Worse films have made their ways into theaters, not that this gets Trespass off of the hook. Schumacher's latest is little more than a lukewarm thriller that features characters who aren't worth caring about, and a plot that switches directions and character motivations so often that you only have a mild interest (at best) in who lives or dies. There's neither enough legitimate moments of suspense, nor a camp factor to make the ride enjoyable, even with a clean 90 minute run time. Rather than wind up being casual, dumb fun,Trespass is merely dumb and forgettable, to the point where, as I write this, it's already fading quickly from memory.

Review: C-/D+

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