'Trespass Against Us'
Were it not for the fact that so many better movies have covered every inch of its running time so thoroughly, ‘Trespass Against Us’ would be a worthy indie sleeper. The trouble is that the package takes the form of a British crime movie, and good lord have there ever been a ton of those.
The cast is damn impressive. The first time director shows chops. The themes are weighty yet the narrative engine is fun. This is the sort of genre movie with a heart of gold that serves up nourishing vegetables in a candy coating to go down smoothly. Unfortunately, ‘Trespass Against Us’ stands on the shoulders of countless superior flicks and merely does it all again, not even with much style or grace. It’s the sort of movie that you can predict entirely from the first scene or even the trailer. Fortunately, there’s enough good stuff here (especially in the performances) to make it immensely watchable. It’s just a shame that you’ve seen all that watchable material so many times before.
This Irish crime tale at least has a fairly unique milieu. Although it’s yet another story of a family of thieves with low-key Shakespearian tragedy implications, this family all wear track suits and live in a roaming collection of caravans. Brendan Gleeson plays the burly patriarch, Colby Cutler, a man who conceals his nefarious intent behind a charming smile and bear hugs. He sends his boys (literal sons and figurative) out to fund the family through thieving. They’re good at it and are rarely caught. Even once the authorities catch on, they’re able to pack up and move to the next village with ease. Colby’s son and getaway driver extraordinaire, Chad (Michael Fassbender), is the heart of the film. He’s good at what he does and likely could have been good at far more had family obligations not kept him trapped and illiterate. Now a father and happily married, he’s becoming weary of the family business and wants out. But you know how these things go. Every time you think you’re out, they pull you back in.
This is not exactly the most inspired concept for a film. At times it feels like the script was little more than a collection of scenes from older and better British gangster movies cobbled together with only the names changed. On the plus side, it looks rather pretty. BBC directing veteran Adam Smith creates a fairly grounded sense of place and hypes things up for a few car chase sequences with style.
The cast is also overqualified. Brendan Gleeson commands the screen as approximately the 78th “tough Dad who sorta means well” role this year. His trailer park crime lord has a certain spark that makes it impossible to tear your eyes from him. The perpetually underappreciated Sean Harris also pops up to do some stellar work as the most damaged member of the low-end crime family. Oddly, Michael Fassbender is the only one who drops the ball. He’s fine, but it’s hard to buy him as a humble and dumb loser with a heart of gold. Maybe because he’s too recognizable to disappear into the role, but something about the match of the star and character never quite meshes and this is one of his most forgettable performances, especially during the almost unforgivably sentimental finale.
In many ways, ‘Trespass Against Us’ is a big waste of talent. Far too many worthy folks were involved in making something mediocre at best. At the same time, the market for British crime movies will likely never disappear. This endless genre has seen far worse entries than ‘Trespass Against Us’. The biggest sin here is mediocrity, especially given that this same cast and director could have made something brilliant. From here on out, the film will be a VOD timewaster that will give Brit crime completest some pause while they wonder if they’ve already seen it. The short answer is that they have seen the movie, even if they haven’t.