TIFF Journal: ‘Trespass Against Us’

'Trespass Against Us'

Movie Rating:


Crime movies can be tough. There have been so many that sometimes it feels like there are no themes left to explore. Music video director Adam Smith’s feature debut ‘Trespass Against Us’ attempts something new by diving into an untapped world for his tale of robbers dodging cops. Unfortunately, the ways he uses that to explore themes of family and sins of the father and blah blah blah… aren’t particularly inspired.

The film is pretty standard issue stuff all around. Though well-made and performed, it never feels like anything that needed to exist. You’ve seen it all before.

The movie follows the Cutler clan of contemporary outlaws. They all live in a collection of caravans and travel from town to town doing a little looting until the local police start to crack down, then they move on. Brendan Gleeson plays Chad Cutler, the papa bear leader of the clan, but the star of the group is his son Colby (Michael Fassbender). That guy is one hell of a getaway driver who tends to get his gang out of jams. Unfortunately, that’s all he’s really good at because that’s all he was taught to do from birth. So he’s pushing his kids into school in the hopes that they’ll have a better life, but it’s tricky to convince them to reach for something better in the midst of an outlaw caravan community. After their latest robbery goes wrong, the local po-po set their sights on the Cutlers, specifically targeting Colby’s kids for info. Obviously, that causes some tension.

First, the good news: ‘Trespass Against Us’ is pretty fun as far as ho-hum crime movies go. Smith certainly has an eye for finding striking imagery in the mundane and crafts some pretty great chase set-pieces. The cast are all strong, with Gleeson doing the working-class-heavy-with-secret-intelligence thing that he does so well and Fassbender being his usual believable charm factory. (He doesn’t quite make for a believable dummy, though. He’s too naturally intelligent for that.) There are some laughs and excitement to be had, but it all feels too routine to register.

This is one of those movies so tied to genre that it’s easy to predict every twist and message pretty much as soon as all the central character dynamics are set up. There aren’t many surprises from there, and the few twists (like the oddly quirky finale) feel forced. Sadly, a movie designed to play as a romp often feels more like a slog because there’s just nothing particularly fresh or special going on. Forgiving crime movie completists should at least get a kick out of ‘Trespass Against Us’, even though most other people will likely feel like they’ve already seen this movie, even if they haven’t.

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