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Trespass (2011)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Trapped In A Glass Cage Of Overemotion"
1 stars

When it was announced that the new thriller "Trespass" was going to be released almost simultaneously in theaters and on VOD, even the most heavily Botoxed brows in the industry were raised upon hearing the news. After all, this was a film co-starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman under the direction of Joel Schumacher and while their collective star wattage has inevitably dimmed over the last few years thanks to the inevitable passage of time and some questionable choices in material, those names are still big enough to make it seem strange that any collaboration involving them would wind up getting the kind of treatment normally reserved these days for either art-house obscurities,lesser Jason Statham vehicles or greater ones from Steven Seagal. After having actually seen "Trespass" for myself, I find it less difficult to believe that it is receiving such a token theatrical release than to believe that anyone involved with its production could have ever seriously believed for a moment that it was worthy of being put in front of cameras in the first place, let alone any actual distribution platforms. This is a film that, despite all the talent involved, goes so wrong so quickly and so definitively that there are times when I almost became convinced that I had been slyly bamboozled and that it was in fact a hilarious spoof of a standard-issue home invasion thriller than instead of just a hilariously botched version of one. Hell, it inspires so many peals of incredulous laughter that I am almost tempted to recommend as the most unintentionally funny film to come along since the infamous Lindsay Lohan epic "I Know Who Killed Me" and this one doesn't even need a stripper with a robot hand to generate its giggles.

Cage and Kidman play Kyle and Sarah Miller, an affluent couple with all the accoutrements that come along with such a union--a marriage that has been made shaky because Kyle is gone all the time on business dealing in priceless diamonds, an already palatial home upon which Sarah is supervising a rehab designed to make it into the kind of place that most rappers might find ostentatious and a surly teenage daughter, Avery (Liana Liberato), who just wants to go out and party with her decadent friends instead of doing something square like having dinner with her parents. All of these treasures and many more are zealously guarded by the kind of elaborate security system that ordinarily cannot possibly be violated unless done so by a crew headed by George Clooney or someone equally handsome. Alas, such systems are only as successful as the people operating them and in this case of the Millers, it pretty much turns out to be an epic fail. For starters, Avery manages to slip out of her house and off the grounds to attend what appears to be a "Less Than Zero" theme party with her fellow overprivileged friends who introduce enough money and drugs into the proceedings to make more attentive viewers slowly suspect that such seemingly unimportant details may wind up to have some great importance later on. The flaw comes when a couple of cops turn up to announce that there has been some trouble in the area and ask to come in and check things out. Despite the fact that the cops speak in only the vaguest possible terms, fail to offer any sort of identification and seem to be making sure that their faces are not captured on the security camera--you know, the very things that people get security systems to warn them about in the first place--Kyle doesn't seem to think that there is anything strange about any of this and lets them in. It should serve as a measure of the Olympic-sized levels of stupidity yet to come in this film that this particular act is nowhere near the dumbest thing that will occur before the merciful arrival of the end credits.

Shockingly, the visitors turn out to be a quartet of toughs--Elias (Ben Mendelsohn), his younger brother Jonah (Cam Gigadent), his stoner stripper girlfriend Petal (Jordana Spiro) and the silent-but-thuggish Ty (Dash Mihok)--and they quickly grab Kyle and Sarah and order them to follow their demands under penalty of extending the running time. Trouble is, they seem to be a little unfocused as to what it is exactly that they are after. At first, Elias demands some rare uncut diamonds that Kyle is keeping in the safe but they turn out to be a cruel disappointment. Then he demands $100,000 and when that fails to pan out, he begins indicating that he could really use someone's kidney. At each step of the way, Kyle tries to use his fast-talking ways to keep him and Sarah alive for as long as possible and continues to prattle on even when guns are being pressed at his forehead. An additional complication arises when the oh-so-rebellious Avery decides that hanging out in what appears to be a deleted scene from Schumacher's previous film, "Twelve" (which you didn't see and have no need to do so now) isn't nearly as much fun as it seems and sneaks back into her house just in time to offer herself up as another hostage. To further complicate matters, if such a thing is even possible at this point, it appears that Sarah and Jonah may not only know each but may really know each other, if you know what I mean. To give Kyle credit, he may not actually be the last person in the room to hear about this.

On the surface, "Trespass" may sound virtually indistinguishable from any other home invasion thrillers that have cropped up over the years but after only few minutes, it becomes readily apparent that this particular take on the genre isn't so much "The Desperate Hours" as it is just plain desperate. I cannot recall a more bizarrely disjointed screenplay for a thriller than the one submitted here by Karl Gajdusek, a mess of raw expository dialogue (including epically detailed explanations about diamonds, security systems and the mysterious stuff being carried around in a syringe that seem to have been taken straight from their Wikipedia explanations), flashbacks deployed to further explain what is going on, additional flashbacks deployed to explain why the earlier flashbacks were not to be trusted and key plot points that are inserted into the proceedings with all the grace and subtlety of someone standing up in the back of the multiplex and screaming "PLOT POINT!" as loud as possible. (To give but one example, let me merely point out that the screenplay scrupulously follow's Chekov's famous maxim that if a telephone pole planted adjacent to a dangerous curve is introduced in the first act, it has to go off in the third.)

And if that weren't enough--and believe me, it is--everyone gets a moment or two where the proceedings grind to a further halt so that they can offer up a solo spot of silliness filled with purple dialogue and absurd overacting. Each one of the thugs, for example, seems to be convinced that they have what might be described as "the Nicolas Cage part" and act accordingly via oddball line readings and nostril-flaring overacting. However, they don't seem to realize that they are up against the guy who put the "Nicolas Cage" into "the Nicolas Cage part" and after laying low for the early going (though the sight of him trying to play at being a straight-laced businessman, husband and father is freaky in and of itself), he finally kicks into high gear to show the other punks how it is done. In what is either the film's high or low point, depending on your perspective, he decries Kidman's alleged faithlessness by shrieking--yes, shrieking--that she has brought all of this misery upon them because of her "FILTHY LUST!" Good news for all those people who have been uploading compilations of Cage's infamous histrionics from the remake of "The Wicker Man" on YouTube over the last few years--you finally have some new and worthy material to play around with at last.

Since nothing about "Trespass" works as it is presumably meant to and since even the sheer nuttiness begins to wear a little thin as matters go on, most viewers will find their attentions wandering to other topics at hand. Personally, I spent most of my time wondering how such a poorly designed screenplay could have possibly attracted anyone to sign up to work on it, let alone the talent assembled here. For the lesser-known actors, they presumably signed on because it was a paid job and if no one else was going to point out that they were either wildly miscast (Jordana Spiro is perhaps the least-convincing depiction of a junkie stripper to hit the screen since. . .hell, Selena Gomez would have been more convincing in the part) or just plain awful (the usually unreliable Cam Gigadent continues to solidify his reputation as Hollywood's go-to plank of wood), they certainly weren't going to say anything. Cage's participation shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at this point--in a year that has already seen him appear in the redoubtable likes of "Season of the Witch" and "Drive Angry 3D" and with "Ghost Rider 2" on the horizon, a choice like this seems almost staid by comparison. The presence of Nicole Kidman is a bit of a surprise, however, because even though she has been in her share of duds over the years, they have usually been projects that were at least somewhat more ambitious than this and if they failed, they were noble failures. Perhaps after having famously dropped out of "Panic Room" at the last second due to an injury, she made a vow to herself that she would one day eventually appear in a home invasion thriller, no matter how bad it might be. . .not realizing, of course, just how bad it could get.

Then again, maybe they all simply wanted to work with Joel Schumacher, a director who often gets lambasted in the press but who is in fact a genuinely nice guy and capable of turning out perfectly good films when working with the right material (such as "Falling Down," "Cousins," "Tigerland" and "Phone Booth"). ON the other hand, he has also made some of the very worst films that I have ever seen, such as his two ultra-garish "Batman" movies and the hideous musical version of "The Phantom of the Opera," while this effort may not be quite as bad as those, it certainly isn't much of an improvement. On the bright side, Schumacher is one filmmaker willing to admit to his mistakes (he once confessed to me all the errors he felt he made with the tearjerker "Dying Young" and the extended mea culpa that was the commentary track for the "Batman & Robin" DVD is legendary in some circles) and while I can't say that I would ever want to watch this film again, I can't wait to hear what he has to say on the commentary track.

Bereft of suspense, tension or common sense, "Trespass" is such a ridiculous enterprise that if it actually had been a straight-up remake of the 1992 Walter Hill thriller of the same name (a contemporary riff on "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" featuring Bills Paxton and Sadler against Ices T and Cube), it might have come across as more plausible than what has been offered up here. It is so ludicrous, in fact, that I am almost at a loss as to how to deal with it. As a serious-minded film, it is a complete and total failure but as a source of unintentional laughs, it supplies more chuckles than most regular comedies of recent months. Yes, I laughed a lot and was more or less entertained, mostly out of sheer astonishment over what I was seeing, but I cannot in good conscience recommend that you go out to the multiplex and fork over your hard-earned money on that basis alone. On the other hand, if you order it on pay-per-view, it could make for an amusing night and even better, you won't have to run the risk that someone might see you walking into the theater showing it and if you do get caught watching it in the privacy of your own home, you can always claim that you were really watching porn and blame everything on your [b]FILTHY LUST!!![/b]

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22913&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/13/11 22:18:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/20/11 mr.mike Good DVD or VOD watch. 4 stars
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  DVD: 01-Nov-2011


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