Trespass Against Us (2017) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
1Aug/170

Trespass Against Us (2017)

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Chad looks at his life of crime and wonders if he's leading his kids down a path of getaway driving.  After pushing his luck too far by burglarizing the home of a powerful political official, Chad and his family become targets of the police.  Adam Smith directs Trespass Against Us, with the screenplay written by Alastair Siddons, and stars Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson.

"Hell hath no fury like a locked-up supergoat."

So says Colby in a moment that has Brendan Gleeson trying to convey smarts as the head of a family of criminals screwing with the local police and a man who might be blubbering out a legit belief.  Considering the way Trespass Against Us slips from one tone to the next with all the grace of a drunk elephant both readings are possible.  It's also entirely possible Gleeson came up with the odd rambling leading to high-point "supergoat" exchange as a way of mentally escaping from this dreadful flick.

This isn't the first time Gleeson's played a conflicted man of God.  However, the last time was in the grossly overlooked Calvary, and now stands a man doused in blue paint up in a makeshift church holding a painting of Jesus while ranting about how the cops persecute people like Colby (Gleeson) and are thus like Jesus.  I'll go with this to a point, and I'm all for people stealing bread if their community isn't interested in having a system that keeps families fed, but after Colby's son Chad (Michael Fassbender) breaks the neck of their dog I have to question Colby's read of the scripture.  Neither of them have it as rough as poor Lyndsey Marshal, who's gone from playing Cleopatra to the role of worried wife in Trespass Against Us.

Pictured: when your crime drama may have gone a bit too far off its rails.

To paraphrase something I read from time to time, "Ya'll need Nicholas Cage."  I'm not sure it would have salvaged Trespass Against Us' going down a list of dramatic territories and creating one of the first car chase / domestic strife / puppy redemption / corrupt police / family curse movies I've seen.  But Cage would have known how to inject Alastair Siddons godawful script with a consistent strain of manic energy Gleeson taps into during the few notable parts of Trespass Against Us.  Fassbender is no Cage, neither is Gleeson for that matter, and as such the flick can't be saved.

Siddons would have done the product some good if he picked one of the many threads weaved into Trespass Against Us and ran with it.  Thanks to director Adam Smith and cinematographer Eduard Grau, there are sections that look amazing.  I loved the blobs of darkness that Chad and his crew of fellow criminals disappear into while police cars break their anonymity with their lights.  There's also a moment where Grau hits the frame with just enough lens flare to hint at the freedom Chad is losing when he's in the backseat of a police cruiser.  Smith and Grau show an adept hand with the camera that could have created a consistent visual world for one of the plot threads.

That's not the flick I watched.  The flick I watched had Chad's aforementioned canine murder sitting alongside a cheerful moment in a tree where he thoughtfully nurses a puppy.  That signals a level of self-reflection that's barely hinted at throughout Trespass Against Us, and the shot of Chad looking sad underwater doesn't cut it.  It's baffling how often everyone's mindset changes with Chad reluctantly listening to Colby's sermons in one scene then Chad getting punched by Colby in the next.  There's efficient storytelling, then there's moving on to the next beat for the hell of it and there's far too much of the latter in Trespass Against Us.

The biggest tell that each character exists for a disconnected emotional beat and little else is most accurately seen with the role the police play.  At one point they're - rightly - chasing Chad as he endangers the town with his reckless driving, then the police hold back crucial information to coax damning details about Chad from Kelly (Marshal), only to reveal the police have had Chad and Kelly's kid in custody.  What thread I was supposed to pull from all this is anyone's guess as the police go from rightfully concerned enforcers of the law to hideously hiding the criminal's kids from them to - and I can scarcely believe this is where it ended up - patiently holding a net to catch Chad, his kid, and their new puppy.

Can't fault the visuals of Trespass Against Us, and the way Gleeson's Colby looms over Cody establishes a dominant relationship rendered incoherent by the screenplay.

Trespass Against Us is a bloody mess (and I'm not just talking about the murdered pooch.)  My strict philosophy of reading movies as they are and not what I want them to be hits so many roadblocks when the characters' motivations remain concealed while their behavior drastically changes.  One jarring moment stands out above the rest with Chad putting a leash on fellow criminal Gordon (Sean Harris) before stripping Gordon and dousing him in paint.  I watched flabbergasted as this happened, wondering what part of Colby's love and/or abuse led to the incident with Gordon and the paint.  Fassbender, usually the steady hand in otherwise bizarre surroundings (Frank being a phenomenal example of this), flounders in a sea of flimsy motivations as there's nothing for him to anchor to.

By the end I felt alternately drained and invigorated thanks to Trespass Against Us.  Drained because trying to map out the internal motivations causing dramatic shifts in behavior, and invigorated because it's an almost hilarious mess of storytelling components vaguely assembled into a narrative.  If you opt to rent this grab a white board to make a note of what motivation you think is driving each scene.  The results will likely look like a conspiracy theorist's wet dream.

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Trespass Against Us (2017)

Directed by Adam Smith.
Screenplay written by Alastair Siddons.
Starring Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson.

Posted by Andrew

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