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There is No Honor (or Decency) Among Thieves

Movie Review: Trespass (2011)
Summary: As they’re held for ransom, a husband and wife’s predicament grows more dire amid the discovery of betrayal and deception.
Spoilers: none

The director who brought us Falling Down (1993) and Phone Booth (2002) brings us Trespass, a film about a family of three that becomes victim to a home invasion where they are held for ransom.

This grueling and discomforting film comes with one high-tension message. That message is an old one: There is no honor among thieves. Sometimes, even humdrum clichés like this say a lot. And yes, the
film uses a few of them every once in a while, but doesn’t come to rely on them. It doesn’t rely on star power much, either.

As “Kyle Miller” (Nicholas Cage) and “Sarah Miller” (Nicole Kidman), the financially well-off father and mother of teenage daughter “Avery” (Liana Liberato), our two leads do surprisingly little to add to the likeability of the story.

This movie pulls itself up by its own bootstraps with one shock after another and what could be called a staunch respect for realism running throughout. This story of home invasion is as full of as many surprises and twists as anyone could want.

And it is the setting that gives the plot such room to explore its space, which, to most of us, is new. That is to say, when you’re targeted because you’re rich and never have been held hostage before, you have no idea how you will react when you see your spouse thrown to the walls and floor with a gun to her head; but on the same note, the intruders have no idea how they will react when attempting to handle a man as smart as Kyle Miller.

Cam Gigandet as "Jonah"
When the heat is on and the gang is looking to get into Miller’s safe, everyone is trying to call everyone’s bluff. And then there’s that mark you must cross once you realize your bluff has been called. How you react is crucial. You can’t give up leverage or you’re as good as dead. But Kyle Miller isn’t the focus here. The real focus happens to be the invaders themselves whose efforts to rob a businessman get bogged down more by each other.

“Elias” (Ben Mendelsohn) and his team of outlaws are themselves examples of broken people who are outlaws because of some glaring personality flaw. “Jonah” (Cam Gigandet), one of the more upscale performances in the film, exhibits psychotic tendencies that threaten to jump out of control. His fascination began when he first started tracking Sarah in preparation for the job. The battle inside his head is as big as the job he’s trying to help pull off in real life.

Along with Kidman's, the best performance in the film is that of “Petal” (Jordana Spiro), a self-conscious drug-addict motivated only by the compulsion of being a jealous loser and doing the things jealous, angry losers do. These are bent people and the fact that Elias – supposedly the smart, level head in this bunch – would even think of taking a team like this for a serious job means he himself is a product of some mental flaw, or else a grotesque lack of wisdom.

But most criminals are dumb—dumb and desperate. It seems as though the reason this went so, so horribly wrong is because the wrong people were selected to do the job. And that, surprisingly, gives us such a very entertaining movie. We have tons of room for the script to work and surprise us. Admittedly, some of these surprises do frustrate us, but so does life when ordinary people face circumstances where they only wish they had super powers.

That’s why, despite some sizable problems with the acting and a few lines and segments that do the film no favors, we still have a movie that more or less accurately conveys the out-of-bounds chaos of a robbery gone as wrong as life. We watch and get bit-by-bit more of the story. By the end, we feel like we’ve made a halfway good investment of our time.

(JH)

Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R (for violence, terror, pervasive language, and some brief drug use)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage), “Sarah Miller” (Nicole Kidman), “Elias” (Ben Mendelsohn), “Avery Miller” (Liana Liberato), “Jonah” (Cam Gigandet), “Petal” (Jordana Spiro)
Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller
Trailer

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