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Marshall Fine

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Movie Review: Trespass

Posted: 10/13/11 10:04 AM ET

Joel Schumacher's Trespass is one of those thrillers - like The Panic Room or, to go back to the source, The Petrified Forest or Desperate Hours - that's like a one-way street. There's only one way out and, in this case, it's a dead end.

The story of a rich couple and their daughter who become the victim of a brutal home invasion, this script by Karl Gajdusek is so by-the-numbers that you can practically see the stencil marks. Sure, there are minor variations that merely reflect the modern world; yet even the inclusion of cell phones and elaborate electronic safes and home-security systems can't keep this predictable thriller from ending up about where you expect, with pistols and nailguns.

The film stars two actors who have come to define contemporary box-office poison: Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage. They play a married couple, Kyle and Sarah Miller, who live in a sprawling modern manse so remote and chilly-looking it could double as a conceptual meat locker. It's meant to reflect the state of their marriage, with the work-obsessed Kyle (he's a diamond dealer) ignoring the already ignored-feeling Sarah. They have a teen-age daughter, Avery (Liana Liberato), who sneaks out on the evening in question to go to a party her parents have forbidden her from attending.

Enter the burglars, led by the scary, skeevy Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom), a group that also includes the growly Dash Mihok and the jittery Cam Gigandet. Convinced that Kyle has a fortune in uncut stones and cash in his home office safe, they threaten Kyle and Sarah with death unless Kyle turns over the valuables.

The rest of it becomes a protracted, repetitive negotiation:

"Do this or I kill her."
"If you kill her, I won't do it. Let her go and I'll give you what you want."
"No, give me the stuff first and then I'll let her go."
"No, because I know you'll kill us when I give you what you want."

It's playground horse-trading, except with brutal violence - but with no more imagination than kids bargaining while trying to avoid mutually assured destruction.

Cage is a shockingly promiscuous actor who seemingly will take any acting job offered to him (the hell, apparently, of trying to maintain a lifestyle after being screwed by a financial adviser). Schumacher, a director of no obvious talent who somehow has found work for the better part of the past 30 years, manages to keep his more florid excesses in check.

Kidman is serviceable in a thankless role that forces her to spend a lot of time screaming and being smacked with a pistol. Mendelsohn, an Australian, does a workable American accent as the low-life ringleader.

Really, what's the point of going on? Trespass reeks of desperation, of careers in free-fall and of a movie company shoveling product out the door like so much manure. Even at 85 minutes, it feels interminable.


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