SXSW Film Review – The Trust
What starts as a quirky buddy cop story about two guys trying to game the system turns into a tale of dark obsession in The Trust. Coming in at a just about Direct-to-Video level, Jim Stone (Nicolas Cage) a Las Vegas police officer in charge of the station’s evidence room, convinces his co-worker David Waters (Elijah Wood) in helping him rip off a stash house for drug money. After opening on a despondent Waters mid-coitus, we get a random shouting, emotion-effusing Stone and then Waters goes to a crime scene high and a suspect escapes to his amusement. It’s quirky, it’s kind of random and it also shifts tone about halfway through from buddy comedy affair to deranged, troubled affair. If this at all sounds similar it might be because you read my review of Operation Avalanche, which coincidentally mirrors a very similar progression in plot tone.
Start off funny then let things get dark. It’s a formula that certainly works. That is not necessarily a bad thing but can lead to redundancy when relied on as tried and true. While this isn’t entirely redundant, it is also not nearly as good as it could be, a lot of which is due to a script that’s more focused on achieving the tone switch from comedy to thriller than giving a reason for that switch to occur. Sure, it’s fun to watch Nicolas Cage be random and weird as he suddenly shouts an unnecessary line the way William Shatner switches word pronunciations mid-syllable, but it also gets old pretty fast when the behavior is given little to no explanation and only comes on in uneven intervals. At least when Cage was over-the-top in a movie like Snake Eyes it’s because his character is cocky and believes he has reason to.
It’s never made quite clear what Stone’s deal is in this movie. His motivations, which position him story wise as the antagonist, creates the situation the characters eventually find themselves in. While Water’s motivation is at least hinted at through visual cues and actual lines of dialog, Cage’s Stone switches persona merely for the effect of trying to shock an audience. Maybe it works better for some than others, but the ultimately underlier is that it is never given credence and because of that the tension that mounts suffers from a lack of credibility. Standard questions that would be associations to the scenario this movie presents seem glossed over in favor of aesthetics and a specifically desired ending.
There’s nothing wrong with a specifically desired ending if the concluding result made sense in its acquisition. Unfortunately, once the characters become embedded in the situation of conflict the story calls for, it quickly loses the steam it previously boiled in favor of suddenly being edgy. This isn’t to say the movie is bad. It’s actually pretty fun at times before it loses itself in pulp dreams of confrontation and violence, and even then it doesn’t stop being entertaining, just less so.