Movie Review: The Trust (2016)
“Bad cops make the best criminals”
The Trust (2016)
Director: Alex & Benjamin Brewer
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Elijah Wood, Sky Ferreira
Synopsis: A pair of low-ranking cops decide to rob a mysterious vault without knowing what is concealed inside.
Nic Cage’s epic mission to get the tax man off his back continues unchecked with The Trust – his sixteenth screen appearance in the past five years, with at least another eight lined up for the next two. One day – who knows when? – he’ll pay off that bill and be able to pick his roles with more regard for the quality of the material than the size of the pay cheque or speed of the shoot. At least The Trust, the feature debut from music video directors Alex and Benjamin Brewer, shows that every now and then he manages to hitch his name to something worth watching. It’s a low-key heist movie which gives Cage just the one opportunity to play out-and-out whacko (“Open it! Open it! Open it! Open it! Open it! OPEN IT! OPEN IIIIIITTTTTT!!!!!!!”), but plenty of time to develop an offbeat character whose incipient sociopathy nestles deep within a deceptive normality, and it’s the best thing Cage has done in a good few years.
The jaunty music with which The Trust introduces itself suggests we’re in for one of those light-hearted knockabout heist movies, but the tone grows increasingly dark as the story unfolds and we get to know the two men at its centre. Jim Stone (Cage – Frozen Ground, The Runner) is the type of guy that’s so nondescript he’s almost invisible to those around him. He’s smart enough, but when people aren’t looking right through him, they’re taking him for granted, particularly in his job as a low-level Las Vegas police officer in the evidence department, a black hole in which scene of crime evidence is stored, and which serves as a metaphor for the state of his life: sitting on a shelf and going nowhere. He’s the boss of one man, an equally invisible cop called David Stone (Elijah Wood – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Cooties), who’s struggling with low self-esteem and depression following the break-up of his marriage. The slow, inexorable downward arc of their lives seems inescapable until Stone notices that someone has put up the $200,000 bail money for a lowly casino worker recently picked up for drug dealing. After railroading his reluctant assistant into becoming his accomplice, the two men trace the money back to its source, a nondescript apartment in a seedier part of the city which, they also discover, is situated above a huge vault. What’s inside that vault is a mystery, but Stone is sure it must contain something of great value, and they decide to drill through from the floor of the flat above to get a sneaky peek.
Cage is the kind of actor who polarises opinion amongst moviegoers – or, more increasingly, DVD-viewers – but, for once, he reins in his trademark quirkiness to give a performance balanced enough to pacify even his most ardent haters. His is a darkly amusing performance that captures not only the quite desperation that has haunted most of us at some time, but also taps into the impotent rage bubbling beneath that despair. It would be a terrific role for any actor, but it feels tailor-made for Cage, and he doesn’t let the opportunity to demonstrate how much he still has left in the tank to pass him by. Opposite him, Wood feels a touch miscast, but his mass of doubts and fears provide an appealing counter to Cage’s driven determination.
The Trust dips a little in its second act as it explores the way the differences in the men’s characters jeopardises the success of their mission but rallies to deliver a satisfying, if downbeat, conclusion. It could be argued that the ending leaves a number of questions unanswered, but that’s because the movie is about the characters and how they react to the situations in which they find themselves rather than the incidents themselves. While The Trust isn’t the greatest heist movie ever made, it proves to be a highly enjoyable first effort from a writing and directing team (Benjamin Brewer co-wrote with Adam Hirsch) who are well worth keeping an eye on.
(Reviewed 24th May 2016)