Cage Match

Nic Cage outperforms the script in this not-without-my-daughter thriller.

Trespass
2

Trespass

Release year: 2011 Posted October 5, 2013

“Systems are to be appreciated by their general effects, and not by particular exceptions.”

James Fenimore Cooper

In the chronicles of this project, Trespass will be a milestone. Make no mistake about it, this is not a good movie. But it is through no fault of Nic Cage. The film is directed by Joel Schumacher who previously worked with Nic on 8mm. Forgetting about his penchant for unnecessary nipples, Schumacher’s style folds in well with the kind of movies Cage excels in, and Trespass is no exception.

Why isn’t Nicolas Cage cast as a wormy, middle-age, upper-middle-class dad more often? Where did his action hero persona come from, exactly? Roles like this anti-hero and David Spritz in The Weather Man work so well for him. He’s the guy who you don’t think can and does, not the man who absolutely can and will. We already have that guy and he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or Jason Statham. Or, shit, even Channing Tatum. Any of these guys are better suited than Nic. There was talk for a time (before Bryan Singer) that Nic Cage was in the running to be cast as Superman. Absurdity! This man requires roles like the one he has in Trespass.

In movies like Trespass, watching the world of entitlement that Cage’s character meticulously cultivated suddenly collapse around him is what makes his trademark frenetic line delivery so believable and effective. When you watch Season of the Witch, you want him to maintain his Catholic knight stoicism even when confronting Satan (he does not), but here you long for Nic’s out-of-touch snobby absent-father type to get taken down a few pegs. He does and the descent is satisfying.

Nic gets another (potentially undeserved) bonus for getting to act beside Nicole Kidman, who just gives a lot onscreen (NSFW) in anything she’s in. She gets the second place acting award for this film.

The writing, though, is a nightmare. I don’t know what I should have expected from Karl Gajdusek. Looking at his record prior to Trespass, I discovered he had written three episodes of Dead Like Me, as well as…nothing else.

The first act is quick and snappy. Exposition isn’t dragged out, and some subtlety is layered in, giving the viewer something to look forward to. The second act is also good, but it ultimately fails what I like to call “the Whedon Test.” Sometimes when writing a story, you have to kill a main character in order to move the plot forward. Passing the Whedon Test means immediately killing that character. Failing the test means creating a deus ex machina.

Trespass is written by a coward who can’t kill Nic Cage’s fictional daughter. To avoid it, one of the main characters turns out to be an unmedicated psychotic who can’t remember things. From there the whole plot overdoses on 20cc’s of itself and its friend eventually leaves it, discarded and alone, at the door of the ER.

The third act is a nightmare, only one rung above the “it was all a dream” ending. There’s a pretty neat scene of a huge pile of money on fire but if you want to see that and a good movie at the same time, watch The Dark Knight. Or light a pile of money on fire and put on Tootsie.

But I ask you, what actor is more capable of saving an out-of-control third act than Nicolas Cage? Was he not the man who stabbed himself in the heart to save The Rock? Did he not singlehandedly justify the ending of Adaptation? And don’t get me started on Con Air, which is basically one long, bad third act.

In Trespass Nic Cage thrives, like a mighty phoenix, or better yet, like a mushroom in fertilizer, emerging where there was once ash…or shit. Emerging to courageously drive the film, using will, determination, and true theatrical commitment. Here he becomes the hero he worked so hard at first to show he was not. That’s good acting.

Movie?
Bad
Nic Cage’s acting?
Quite good
Did his performance make the movie worse?
No