A film review by Craig J. Koban November 10, 2011



2011, R, 88 mins.


Kyle: Nicolas Cage / Sarah: Nicole Kidman / Elias: Ben Mendelsohn / Avery: Liana Liberato / Jonah: Cam Gigandet

Directed by Joel Schumacher / Written by Karl Gajdusek

Joel Schmacherís newest thriller TRESPASS is a film of unremitting and embarrassing awfulness, so awful that it made me want to time travel back to physically check the collective pulses of its participants to see if they were alive when the signed their contracts.  Insidiously preposterous, wretchedly overacted, and scripted without a care in the world to the normal laws of common sense, TRESPASS is terrible right from its opening minutes in ways that oh-so-few films are these days.  Whatís all the more damning is that two Oscar winning actors agreed to star in this belabored and overstuffed fiasco; aggressive finger wags of shames should befall the both them. 

Home invasion thrillers should derive their tension and nail biting suspense based on their tightly confined and claustrophobic environments.  Itís derived from the common and universal fear that every family has of having the sanctity and privacy of their homes invaded by outsiders.  Even on those modest levels of intrigue, TRESPASS should have worked.  

Unfortunately, the film contains phoned-in and stilted direction by Schumacher (a director that has made some good thrillers before: 8mm and PHONE BOOTH come to mind), a screenplay that careens from one ham infested and unintentionally hilarious plot twist to the next, and contains performances by nearly all of its actors that are so histrionically caffeinated that it appears that Red Bull was administered intravenously to them on set.  All things considered, TRESPASS could have risen to the dubious class of a B-grade exploitation flick that was intentionally schlocky, but the film does not even deserve the moniker of being so bad, itís good: itís just so much of the former. 

The film opens serenely enough:  Nicolas Cage stars as diamond broker Kyle Miller who is on his way back to his isolated and lavish country home.  He seems permanently fixated on his smart phone, apparently trying to finish the ultimate deal.  He's a man that has everything: a hot trophy wife, Sarah (Nicole Kidman), a loving, if not a bit rebellious teen daughter (Liana Liberato), and a house that most people would only dream of affording.  Then, without any warning, their home is invaded.  Four masked marauders gain entry into the home while pretending to be cops.  Once they gain access they predictably terrorize Kyle and Sarah (their daughter is not present, as she snuck out to a party earlier in the evening).  The apparent leader of the group wants the precious contents of Kyleís safe, which only responds to his thumbprint and combination.  On any normal plane of reality the robber with the guns and superior numbers would have been able to get the combination from Kyle and, after that, just kill him and then use his thumb to gain access to the safe.  Regrettably, in this filmís universe the bad guys point their guns, threaten, point their guns, threaten, point their guns, threatenÖover and over again, until you just want to throw yourself into the film, grab a pistol, and pull the trigger yourself.   



The criminals are of the cardboard cut-out variety as far as villains go: Thereís the leader, Elia (Ben Mendelsohn); his tough guy muscle, Ty (Dash Myhok); a druggy-stripper, Petal (Jordana Spiro); and Jonah (Brad Pitt/Paul Walker love-child look-alike Cam Gigandet), who Sarah recognizes as the security man that installed the family surveillance systemÖand who may or may not have had a tawdry affair with Sarah on the side.  The film makes pathetic attempts at playing cat and mouse games with the audience by flashing back and forward in time to show events that certainly lead people to believe that Sarah is romantically linked to the unhinged Jonah, but it flips sides so bloody often that I grew dizzy just keeping track. 

And if you think the filmís many attempts at layering one inane plot twist after plot twist on viewers is not dreadful enough, the screenplay by Karl Gajdusek even goes as far as to provide a real knee slapper of a motivation for the invasion itself.  I would like to say that the back-and-forth battle of wits between Kyle and Eliasí entourage simmers with compelling intensity, but I was often bowling over with laughter so much at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole affair that it became really difficult to remind myself that this is supposed a thriller.  The ending as well is so abysmally constructed and arrived upon that I simply found myself checking my watch far too much, especially for a film barely 90 minutes long to begin with.  TRESPASS is a scant 88 minutes, but it felt like 188.

The film also contains career-low performances for the key personal involved, most of them being so aggressively nonsensical and hyperactively and unabashedly over-the-top that you just start to stare at them, open mouthed and aghast, with a sense of perverse interest.  Hereís a film where most of its participants nastily and constantly scream and shriek through their exchanges throughout, throwing out multiple varieties of various four and twelve letter usages of the F-bomb with an ear-punishing lack of decorum.  I can forgive actors like Gigandet, for example, for showing absolutely no restraint or discipline in his work.  However, too many other good and revered actors that have demonstrated restraint and conviction in the past populate this mess of a film.  A great actress like Kidman, for instance, deserves far better than a shrieking wife role that could have been occupied by so many other disposable, low-grade performers. 

This brings me to Mr. Cage.  Nic, Nic, Nic.  Poor Nic.  I feel for him.  Very few actors of his generation have been as simultaneously praised and scalded for their alternatively inspired and terrible performances and film choices like him.  Heís been in some of the more memorable films of the last decade-plus (LORD OF WAR, THE WEATHER MAN, and MATCHSTICK MEN come to mind) and some of the biggest stinkers (see THE WICKER MAN and, BANGKOK DANGEROUS).  In TRESPASS Cage almost transcends the notion of horrible acting by being almost fascinatingly horrendous here. Iíve been an apologist of the actor when he really cuts loose and lets his feverous and deliriously unhinged intensity sell a role (like BAD LIEUTENANT), but here he spits and bellows out dialogue so wickedly and restlessly that he almost becomes a parody of his own frenzied image.   

TRESPASS only succeeds as a rotten exercise in downright and senseless mediocrity.  It represents another huge disappointment for Schumacher, who with this film and his last that I saw (the ludicrously poor THE NUMBER 23) seems to be gunning for the number spot of one purveyor of low grade, trashy thriller cinema.  If youíre still not convinced of TRESPASSí low worth, then considering the following: It cost over $31 million; was given a sparse theatrical release on October 14, during which it grossed a disastrously low sum of just $24,000 (making it one of the cinemaís biggest bombs ever); and it was unceremoniously dumped  - and mostly likely abandoned and disowned by all involved Ė to the murky and disreputable waters of the direct-to-video market. 

Convinced now?

  H O M E