Film Review – Tresspass
Location: Cine 1, Ster Kinekor, Maerua Mall
Director: Joel Schumacher
Players: Nicholas Cage; Nicole Kidman
Genre: action; thriller
Joel Schumacher has a reputation for being a stylish director, with a penchant for action films. This reputation is in danger of spontaneous destruction after too many people have seen Trespass. Home invasion plots have been done quite well by other more modest directors: Home Alone gained notoriety on the basis of some humour as a young child thwarted the criminal efforts of a couple of thugs; Jodi Foster in The Safe Room was excellent. In both of these films, the action did not flag, real tension was built up as the film progressed without any apparent success for the victims but finally, usually with a great amount of gore and guts, the victims triumph while the intruders lie splattered and inert on the Persian carpets.
So, what makes Trespass such a disappointing yawn? This requires careful analysis because Nicholas Cage does an excellent job as man-of-the-house, Kyle Miller, a diamond dealer, who is held up in his own home; thereafter he is beaten, shot, and generally abused both physically and mentally throughout the film. Nicole Kidman does a reasonably good job of playing architect wife, Sarah, who has overspent with gay abandon while building her dream house, mostly to allay her feelings of boredom. To keep pace with her interior-decoration fantasies Kyle is seen wheeler-dealing in various anonymous locations, on one occasion dealing diamonds from the boot of his car. Obviously, Kyle has been far too busy to father more than one child, Avery, a misunderstood teenager who feels compelled to break family rules without guilt.
A motley bunch of recidivists storms the Miller residence in a takeover bid. There are two brothers, one of whom became besotted with Sarah while he was installing the security system for Guardian Alert Security. The criminals can only be described as utterly pathetic; they were incapable of inspiring any tension in me, except irritation at the lack of IQ, their social ineptness (they were all mentally deficient, unstable, psychotic or on drugs).
The lovelorn younger brother, for example, is asked by his brother on at least two occasions whether he had taken his medication. The older brother had the IQ of a snail and seemed incapable of a single logical thought. He was very good at shouting and threatening, waving various guns around and occasionally using them too. His wife was a pathetic creature who drifted around in one of Sarah’s slinky evening outfits, smoking crack whenever there is a dull moment – for us, not her. The final thug was an unnamed Goliath – huge, brutish and psychotic. He should have inspired some fear in the audience but did not.
It is difficult to sustain a home invasion film without some flagging of the action. The speciality in this film was allowing one or more of the family members to escape while the other was being beaten to a pulp as a diversionary tactic. Despite the large grounds and a heavily wooded area, the family victims are invariably caught long before they reach the boundary fence. They escape so often that this plot becomes boring. There are few ‘Boo’ moments: on one occasion Avery is hiding behind a tree with a trunk the width of a maypole. Perhaps she was too stressed to notice big arms grab her – we know that this will happen but we flinch anyway.
So, in fact, the storyline, such as it is, becomes an enormous bore: the invaders show no respect for other people’s property and do an awful lot of shouting, swearing, and bullying. The trouble is, so many of the threats are empty ones that the audience is forced to become smug and complacent about a ‘Cry Wolf’ situation, especially when the threats alternate with some self-pitying whinging to their half-dead victims about their deprived environments and lack of opportunity for a decent life.
Other efforts to breathe life into this film involve a lethal injection, used on mass murderers during executions, the flashing of knives, and the waving of guns. Most of the time, however, the thugs do not rise to the use of technologically-advanced weapons; instead there is a bestial preoccupation with fists, kicking, and pulverising the victims with heavy objects chosen at random.
By the end of the film, even the criminals are greasy, sweaty, and harassed. The Miller family fares far worse – of course – bloodied replicas of their former selves. How to finish this film to prove the tension can crescendo to some sort of climax must have kept the screenplay people awake at nights. Nothing would have served the purpose, short of a visual, slow motion rendition of an atomic bomb explosion.
As I have said before – Nicholas Cage is very good in his role – but I am not pleading for a sequel.