Tresspass is notably superior to director Joel Schumacher’s other recent films mostly because of the perpetually escalating convolutions of the film’s story. The home-invasion narrative at the heart of the filmmaker’s latest is uniquely unsound. Screenwriter Karl Gajdusek piles plot twist upon plot twist in a vain attempt to keep his story fresh until, eventually, Trespass’s wrongness becomes almost right. He makes up for his lack of creative judgment with an unhealthy kind of enthusiasm that’s somehow endearing in spite of Schumacher’s characteristically inept direction.
As a director, Schumacher still doesn’t know how to choreograph rising action, falling action, or climactic actions in any given scene, even if it’s just two people talking. He introduces each new and startling plot point gracelessly and with little setup. But Gajdusek’s script is so ridiculous that it makes Trespass a brain-dead guilty pleasure. In each new scene, the standoff between a very sweaty and dickishly didactic patriarch, played by Nicolas Cage, and a group of desperate robbers grows sillier and stupider. Trespass isn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s pretty fun to gawk at.
Cage plays Kyle Miller, a wheeler-dealer businessman who spends all of his time selling diamonds and real estate to clients over the phone. Kyle is, as a result, a rather poor father to his predictably rebellious teenage daughter, Avery (Liana Liberato), and a worse husband to his frustrated but compliant wife, Sarah (Nicole Kidman). So even after docile Sarah dresses up and makes a nice family dinner, Kyle prepares to go out to seal a big business deal while Avery sneaks out to party with older boys in spite of both of her parents’ admonishments.
But while Avery is out, three robbers break into the Millers’ posh home and scream at Kyle while holding Sarah at gunpoint in the hopes that they can intimidate Kyle into giving them his money. This doesn’t work as planned because Kyle is never scared enough by the robbers’ improvised ski masks, voluminous cuss words, or creative props, such as a threatening syringe filled with an unknown liquid. Trespass thus becomes a game of cat and mouse between Kyle and the robbers except both sides enjoy call each other’s bluffs in every scene. Every new threat that the robbers use on Kyle seems like the setup for a vaudevillian routine not unlike Abbott and Costello’s famous “Niagara Falls” bit, making Cage the robbers’ straight man; the robbers threaten Kyle and he finds an excuse to not acquiesce. Repeat. The only problem with this feature-length running gag is that Schumacher and Gajdusek are actually serious, making Trespass an unintentionally funny setup in desperate need of a good punchline.
But you shouldn’t watch Trespass to be excited in any normal sense of the word. The film Gajdusek wrote is campy and ridiculous because of the dizzying number of ridiculous bluffs and reversals that propel the film’s humorless and overlong plot along. But that’s also its main charms as a vacuous and shrill but weirdly engrossing flop of a thriller. Eventually, it doesn’t matter why you’re watching Kyle explain the etymology of the word “diamond” to an armed robber or even wonder why he keeps his wall safe empty. (Regarding the latter question: Kyle hints that the vault is meant to be flashy, but why waste that much money on a decoy? Does he have many enemies?) Gajdusek is so desperate to impress his viewer with new threats and new connections that the robbers can threaten Kyle with that he just starts throwing plot points at the screen in the hopes that some will keep his viewers on their toes. These twists range from rote developments (Sarah’s sleeping with one of the robbers!) to flat-out stupid twists (the mother of one of the robbers is suffering from renal failure, and as such that robber must steal a kidney from one of the members of the Miller clan!). As a Jenga tower of dopey plot contrivances, Trespass is freakishly riveting.
The video transfer on Millenium Entertainment’s DVD release of Trespass looks pretty sharp, with no visible blemishes and absolutely no combing. The film consequently looks pretty good, especially considering that it was shot in a single location on digital cameras. The film’s 5.1 surround soundtrack is nuanced and well-balanced.
There’s a a rather dull and negligible behind-the-scenes featurette, which is only interesting if you want to see Nicolas Cage and Joel Schumacher speak pensively about Trespass. There are also some trailers for other titles released by Millennium Entertainment.
Trespass is a bad film. It’s also stupid fun.