J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Trust: Nic Cage Gets Capery

It is Rififi Vegas-style, which means more of everything, particularly nihilistic excess. Two CSI cops of varying degrees of corruption have discovered a suspiciously fortified vault—the kind whose owners are unlikely to report a burglary to the police. Of course cracking that safe will be a difficult proposition, but Sergeant Waters and Lt. Stone are just bored and bent enough to come up with a plan in Alex & Ben Brewer’s The Trust (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Let’s not beat around the bush. This is a Nic Cage movie, but believe it or not, its pretty good, just like the under-rated Pay the Ghost (seriously, that one really was under-rated). Cage definitely does his thing, but the Brewer Brothers give him the right vehicle for those oddball Cage-isms.

Cage is Lt. Jim Stone, a world-weary forensics whiz. Elijah Wood is Sgt. David Waters, his stoner best friend in the department. Together, they are mired in indolence and petty corruption. As part of some routine paperwork, Stone discovers a suspiciously large cash trail emanating from a small-time drug dealer. Taking some time-off, Stone goes undercover at the same hotel where said dealer works, ironically having a surprisingly good time with the rest of the banquet staff and earning good tips. However, when he traces the dealer’s cash drops to an unprepossessing corner store with Fort Knox in the backroom, Stone starts thinking capery.

Like the thieves in Rififi, they will come down through the roof, but they are dealing with a far more sophisticated safe. There is also the woman they were not expecting to find in the apartment above. Waters is more than a little uncomfortable assuming the role of hostage-taker, but it doesn’t seem to faze Stone. In fact, he seems to roll with each twist and turn quite easily.

The Brewers turn Cage loose in scenes that are suited to his full throttle approach, but they also manage to contain him when it is appropriate. Conversely, Wood is always inclined towards more restrained nebbish neuroses, which fit the film’s dramatic context rather well. They play off each other quite nicely, which is fortunate, since they are together for about ninety percent of the time. However, Jerry Lewis (so rarely seen in film these days) is entirely wasted as Stone’s dementia-suffering ex-cop father, in what amounts to a few throwaway lines.

The Brothers Brewer want to leave us with too many open questions, but The Trust is still a agreeably clever corrupt cop heist movie. For CSI fans still mourning the flagship show’s cancelation, the film similarly depicts the contrast between the workaday lives of Las Vegas cops and the surreal nature of city, but in even darker terms. Recommended as a solid noirish thriller, The Trust opens this Friday (5/13) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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