Immortals; J. Edgar; Take Shelter; Trespass
by Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider
EXPECTATIONS: This is one of the more bizarre stories to come through the Current Releases offices. Before doing some research, none of us really knew if this movie came out in theaters. (It apparently opens in the UK this week, so we'll see how long that lasts.) It turn out that Trespass apparently did have a limited theatrical release, during which it made a whopping $24,000 and was pulled from theaters after 10 days. Worse than that, it was on DVD less than three weeks later, breaking the record for shortest-theater-to-video-turnaround ever. The previous record holder was 2003's From Justin to Kelly. Let me reiterate this for context. A movie starring Academy-Award Winners and all-around major stars Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman somehow performed worse than an American Idol cash-in starring Kelly Clarkson and Justin No-one-cares-about-my-last-name. I don't even see how this is possible, and now I must find out.
REALITY: Okay folks, let's get to work. We've got a lot of ground to cover.
The premise of Trespass is simple: Diamond dealer Kyle Harris (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman) are taken hostage when some armed robbers break into their house to steal... something. We don't really know. They don't really know. The writers don't really know. No one in this film has any idea what they're doing, and that's going to become a recurring theme. As you may have guessed, there is a surprise twist. In fact, there are many surprise twists. There are literally all the twists. As in, every single twist you've ever seen in a crime movie in the past fifteen years. They're after the diamonds, but there are no diamonds, so they're after the cash, but there is no cash, but wait, yes there is! But one of the robbers (Cam "Where did I come from?" Gigandet) is having an affair with the wife! No he's not, but maybe he is! But it's okay, because the main bad guy (Ben Mendehlsohn) has a good reason for it, because he has a dying loved one! Wait, no he doesn't, he was betrayed! By his brother! He's just making up backstory as he goes along, because it was cool when The Joker did that in The Dark Knight! (This is evidence that director Joel Schumacher shouldn't even be allowed to watch a Batman movie.) And we haven't even mentioned the Harris' teenage daughter Avery (Liana Liberato), because she's basically just another plot complication that I don't want to talk about.
All of this happens in the last part of the film, by the way. Around the halfway mark, I found myself thinking "Well, this is a bad film, sure, but it's nowhere near as bad as the record shows." Little did I realize that the movie was about to happen to me. I think that's a good phrase to describe Trespass. You don't watch it, it happens to you. Much like on the screen, it's just a cacophony of things happening to other people. Every single one of the conflicts I described is resolved almost immediately, but no one in this movie does anything or solves any issue for themselves. It's just a series of fortuitous coincidences that keep the plot spinning around. A lot of things are happening, but it's an exercise in futility because none of it is leading to anything.
At one point late in the movie, a conflict arises seemingly out of nowhere between two characters who, previous to this point, had not interacted with each other at all. This is, of course, resolved immediately, as though the issue were introduced just to solve itself. The whole movie is basically like this, to the point of basic filmmaking incompetency. There's not even any continuity as to where characters are at any point in time. They just magically teleport into whatever room they're needed in for that scene, even if they were just shown on the other side of the house. For this reason and others, Trespass is quite possibly Joel Schumacher's worst film, and that is saying a lot.
Basically, the whole film is a mess of bad ideas from people who should know better, which is appropriate enough for a film whose basic premise is "Everyone in this movie is incompetent to the point of possible legal retardation." However, there is no blame to be found in the actors themselves. This is not merely because St. Nicolas Cage is a gift from the movie gods to us heathens on Earth, but because everyone in this film is doing the best they can with what they've got. For example, early in the film, Avery sneaks out of the house to go to a party. (This is inexplicably accompanied by intense spy-thriller music. We're watching a teenage girl climb a fence, and the composer thinks it's Jason Bourne running through the streets of Venice.) She meets her incredibly rich, bratty friend and says "My parents think you're a bad influence." The friend responds "They're right." Every single line of dialogue is like that, and the film asks the actors to deliver this like they're making a movie people would actually be interested in.
Somehow, miraculously, the actors in this movie acquit themselves. Nicole Kidman delivers a fine performance as the angry conflicted wife that Nicole Kidman is good at playing, and I really did believe that none of the actors playing the bad guys were capable of robbing a lemonade stand, so that worked. Then there's Nicolas Cage. If you follow the SA movie forum, you might know that I have an undying love for this man, to the point where I am seriously in the process of writing a book about him. He fascinates me. I think he operates on a different plane of existence than the rest of us. After revealing my bias, though, I must admit he is merely pretty good in this movie.
According to Wikipedia, Cage claims to have developed a new style of acting he calls "Nouveau Shamanic." That's great, Nic, but I think you'd be better off just using your own name as a verb. Nicolas Cage is at his most entertaining when he is just Nicolas Cage-ing. Early on he gets to have these moments, and they are of course the best parts, but then something happens about halfway through this movie: He stops being in it. I mean, he's present, but somehow it's no longer his story. It's now the bad guys' story. Or maybe it's the daughter's story. Or maybe it's a warning story against paying too much for the world's worst security system. I don't know. All I know is that for some of the movie, Nicolas Cage plays Kyle as if he is currently having a stroke, and because he is Nicolas Cage, it works.
I can't honestly say that Trespass deserves the treatment it got. Don't get me wrong, it is a horrible, horrible film, but I've seen worse movies have greater success. I can't point out where this went wrong, but I'm willing to point the finger at Joel Schumacher, because he's generally willing to accept blame. Or maybe it's because screenwriter Karl Gajdusek's only other writing credit is four episodes of Dead Like Me. Or maybe it's the fault of Millennium films for not promoting this movie at all. Hell, the names of the two stars alone should have been enough to get some people in the seats, but even the CR crew, professional attention-to-movie-payers all, had no idea what this was. I think the biggest reason for the movie's failure, however, is the fact that it played on a grand total of 10 screens opening weekend. I don't care how bad it is, when a film with two Oscar-winning stars and an inexplicably big-name director gets a smaller opening than Suing the Devil, somebody better be getting fired.
|Nicolas Cage Bonus||10/10|
|Cam Gigandet||Who Is This Guy?
MINORITY REPORT: I think we all need to band together and launch an investigation to find out who the hell Cam Gigandet is, where he came from and why he's called Cam Gigandet. - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison