Friday, February 10, 2012
Another Gem from the 'Nic Cage Has Bills to Pay' Franchise
Director: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Karl Gajdusek
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet, Jordana Spiro, Liana Liberato, Dash Mihok, Emily Meade.
Running time: 86 min.
Maybe we treat Nicolas Cage unfairly. Maybe, in some better world, his attempts at rebooting his career are actually good. Or maybe, Nicolas Cage is just messing with us and he's inventing a new form of comedy: where he tries too hard with so little. I think there is something that we can take away from the past few years of his career: he is a more is more kind of guy, and unfortunately that doesn't work when you are an Oscar winning actor. His recent effort, Trespass, is possibly his worst film to date. And that doesn't even have that much to do with him. His 'more is more' technique seemed to rub off on everyone else in the movie: everyone screamed at the top of their lungs even though no-one could hear them, the villains were so over-the-top they were measly caricatures, and then there was Jordana Spiro...but we'll get to her later. I don't know whether anyone was trying to compete with Nic to get the 'most over-the-top' award or something, but everyone managed to annoy me more than Nic's worse films and Cam Gigandet's entire filmography combined. It is the longest 86 minutes I've ever had to sit through in my life.
Now, a home invasion is literally my worst nightmare. You ask anyone: I'm the most paranoid person in the world. Even if I'm just going to my backyard, I lock the doors so no-one can get in. So you'd think that a film like Trespass, which is about a home invasion, would get me really unsettled, right? Wrong. David Fincher did that with Panic Room. Joel Schumacher just makes a home invasion about as unsettling to me as Season of the Witch. It is hard to know whether to side with the trespassed or the trespassers. Kyle and Sarah (played by Cage and Nicole Kidman) are an unhappily married couple living in a flash mansion with their daughter Avery (Liana Liberato) who disrespects them. She sneaks out to a party, and while she is gone Kyle and Sarah are invaded by four thieves masquerading as the police. They include the leader Elias (Ben Mendelsohn), his stripper girlfriend Petal (Spiro), his younger brother Jonah (Gigandet) and an intimidating man called Ty (Dash Mihok). All they want is for Kyle to open the safe where they hope to get lots and lots of money and run off to live happily ever after...but of course, that doesn't go to plan. They just run around screaming and swearing...and yet, no-one really cares about the people going through this terrible ordeal, nor do we give a shit about the 'baddies'.
Okay, so if I was going through this kind of 'ordeal' I would probably be repetitively screaming the same stupid stuff that these guys do. I'd tell people to "RUN!" every five seconds. But the truth is, when I watch a movie I don't need to see my life happen before my eyes. I need to see a proper story that isn't repetitive and has something relatively new to bring to the table. So let it be known that home invasions do not make good movie material. There are only so many ways it can go, and Trespass is the perfect example of that. You know how people tell you to lather, rinse, and repeat? In Trespass terms, that is "RUN!", get caught, get threatened, find your way out, back to the beginning again. It just goes round and round and round, adding in a little 'baddie' twist here and there, and then flashing back to a supposed affair between Jonah and Sarah which is supposed to 'complicate' things. When you look at all that happens in Trespass, everything would be extremely terrifying. Alas, as I said, this is not real life happening on screen. Yet, it is not a proper movie, either. It just provides an artificial experience where you probably have to be the kindest person in the world to feel for any of the characters (who are criminally under-developed), or have the weakest stomach to be even so much as biting your nails because of what is happening on screen. The movie is wrapped in plastic, and it is almost impossible to get through to it and actually understand what the hell it is going on about.
However, unlike most of the really bad movies of 2011, there is some decent enough acting going on here. Nicole Kidman, who I forgot was an Oscar nominee for her brilliant work in Rabbit Hole last year, did the best she could with the weak material at hand, but there wasn't a hell of a lot she could do. She didn't succumb to becoming completely off her knocker like most of the others did...she had control, for the most part. Ben Mendelsohn, another Australian, who I was impressed with in Animal Kingdom, slaps on an American accent and plays the head villain, slightly sliding in between a parody and a truly disturbed man. While he was a bit too much at times, I don't doubt that there's a good career for him in the 'fucked up villain' stereotype...and he's a good enough actor to come out the other end smiling. Rounding out the 'good' actors in the movie is Liana Liberato, who was extremely impressive in Trust, and hows here that not all teen actresses have to act like complete airheads. Which I'm grateful for.
But then there's the bad side to the acting. I was on the fence about Nicolas Cage's efforts here, as he wasn't so crazy, nor was he that impressive. He was about as banal as his character's stereotype, and came across as a little, well, creepy. There was something so unsettling about his large-glasses and suit wearing fast-talker/hopeless husband and father...something more unsettling than the home invasion itself.
I'm not really sure if that's a good thing.
Cam Gigandet and Jordana Spiro, playing the robbers, are absolutely tragic in their roles. The former just annoyed me because he has always annoyed me, and his character is so helplessly hopeless it is laughable. But the latter? The latter. If anyone is headed for a Razzie nomination this year, it better be her. She plays a stripper/junkie, and you can just imagine her ticking off her checklist: smudged eye makeup, excessive swearing, floppy arms, trying to look seductive while wearing a ball dress but smoking at the same time, talking really loud and angrily...this girl is more out of control than Nicolas Cage on a good day.
And that is not a good thing.
Trespass was made for $35 million, but only grossed just under $25,000 in the USA. After ten days, it was pulled by theaters. Eight days later, it was released on DVD. I always feel so sad when films fail...but I couldn't imagine anything better happening for this tired, stupid, hopeless little film. Because it is really that bad.
What I got: