Trespass - Nicolas Cage
Diamond dealer Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) tries negotiating with masked home invaders © 2011 Millennium

If any actor has the right to overact as ostentatiously as Nicolas Cage, it has to be the man himself. In Trespass, it’s hard to tell if Cage is doing a knowingly hammy self-parody or simply being true to his scenery-chewing instincts. Either way, his alternately robotic and hyper-amped performance is so unnatural he seems to have dropped in from another space-time continuum.

For anyone whose home-invasion-horror needs were not met by last month’s substandard Straw Dogs, Trespass offers yet another excursion into the delights of small-scale domestic terrorism. Aficionados will appreciate that both movies even feature similarly nasty nail-gun action.

Trespass - Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman
Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) and wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman) © 2011 Millennium

Kyle Miller (Cage) is a diamond merchant constantly hustling big-money deals on the phone. He and his elegant architect wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman) live in a magnificent modern mansion with teenage daughter Avery (Liana Liberato), who sneaks out one disenchanted evening to attend a party. The same night, four well-armed thieves break into the Miller residence. They spend the rest of the movie threatening, cajoling and brutalizing their besieged victims.

Director Joel Schumacher’s tiny 2002 tour de force Phone Booth proved he can pull off a movie with a limited cast in a confined space, considering that movie was practically a one-man show for star Colin Farrell. The problem with Trespass isn’t its small scale, or the fact that it seems more like a talky stage play that a cinematic story. The movie’s main drawback is that it feels like a half-hour idea padded out to three times that length.

Cage tries defying, fighting and negotiating with the bad guys, but all of his high-voltage vamping can’t make up for a thin screenplay (by Karl Gajdusek) that starts feeling repetitive early on. Kidman is more low-key and believable than Cage, but treating this kind of exploitation flick seriously is somehow no more satisfying than using it as an opportunity to go over-the-top nuts.

Nowhere near as unrelentingly vicious as 2007’s Funny Games, which tried to make a similar home invasion nightmare into an art film, Trespass nevertheless subjects the Millers to more than their fair share of abuse. Part of that torture involves listening to leader of the wolf pack Elias (Ben Mendelsohn) rattle on and on about what he will do if Kyle doesn’t open his safe. For an ex-con thug, the guy manages to be as articulately annoying as Robin Williams with a grudge.

Meanwhile, Elias’ trashy and mentally unbalanced girlfriend Petal (Jordana Spiro) spends her time elsewhere in the house, meaningfully watching family videos of the Millers’ daughter. This sets up the movie’s most unintentionally hilarious line, when Elias earnestly assures her that “we’re gonna get Lily out of foster care, and you’re gonna get clean” when they flee to Mexico.

The movie includes some twists and reversals, but this hostage caper is more hokey and hopped-up than Hitchcockian.

[Rating: 2 stars]

James Dawson

Jim is Film Review Online's Los Angeles based reviewer.