Monday, January 16, 2017

Trespass Against Us: Gleeson and Fassbender as Father and Son

In the UK, Irish Travellers are officially recognized as an ethnic group, whereas in Ireland, they are simply considered a social group. Yet, within both countries, Travellers commonly face prejudice and widespread suspicion of criminal behavior. Chad Cutler’s father is doing his best to perpetuate those stereotypes. Crime is definitely their family business, but Cutler has ambitions of a different, better way of life for his son in Adam Smith’s Trespass Against Us (trailer here) which opens this Friday in theaters.

Compared to the rest of his father Colby’s Traveller campsite, Cutler is the responsible one, but not necessarily by his outsider wife Kelly’s standards. The illiterate Cutler adamantly insists his children must go to school, but his “traditional” father does his best to discourage his impressionable grandson Tyson from his studies. Obviously, that is a major point of contention between father and grown son, but Cutler’s intention to retire from crime and his increasing antagonism towards some of the cruder members of the camp will fray their relationship further. However, Chad Cutler has a hard time resisting a good car chase. Indeed, he and British copper P.C. Loverage are like the Traveller version of Smoky and the Bandit.

Adam Smith has a heck of a name to live up to, so best of luck to him. Obviously, Trespass is an insignificant trifle compared to The Wealth of Nations, but it is a rollicking good time—which is not nothing. Smith has a particular knack for reinvigorating movie car chases, getting a key assist from the Chemical Brothers’ Big beat score. Chases scenes often feel like rote obligations, but they are the best part of Trespass.

Of course, Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson are also two of the very best in the business. When they face-off as Chad and Colby Cutler, they generate all the right kind of sparks. However, Lyndsey Marshal holds her own against both of them as the understandably exasperated Kelly Cutler. She provides the film a reality check and a moral center, without ever coming across like scold. In fact, she is a net plus when it comes to generating on-screen energy in general and particularly in her chemistry-heavy scenes with Fassbender.

Frustratingly, Trespass wilts into a treacly after-school special in its final scenes, but until then, Smith largely hits the right notes: ruckus and earthy, but not excessively quirky, naturalistic, cynical, or violent. Solidly entertaining, Trespass Against Us opens this Friday (1/20) in select cities.