Directed by: Alex and Benjamin Brewer
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Elijah Wood, Sky Ferreira
Jim Stone and David Waters are two cops working for the Las Vegas crime scene unit, whose job is to ensure evidence is collected and the correct chain of custody maintained. After a routine visit to the repo department, Stone comes across the case of a low-level drug dealer who has been bailed with $200,000 in cash. Stone gets Waters to follow him and together they learn of an underground bunker situated below an innocuous apartment and together they hatch a plan to steal whatever is inside...
One gets the impression, watching The Trust, that Nicolas Cage's previous financial problems may be well and truly behind him, because he's now able to be a bit more choosy about his film roles. Whereas for the past five years he's been appearing in a lot of direct-to-dvd films and sleep-walking his way through them, we are now beginning to see a return to the edgy, manic characters we love him to play. There are a couple of issues with The Trust but they have nothing to do with the stellar work put in by both Cage and Woods.
Right from the get-go we learn that these two characters, Waters and Stone, are not exactly stand-up guys. Stone is living in a motel room, while Waters is leaving money for the prostitute he's just been with before heading to work. Waters hates his job and doesn't take it seriously (if he were more observant he'd have noticed a second suspect hiding in the closet at the crime scene he's late attending). Stone, on the other hand is more invested in his work and has put together a proposal for his boss to set up a new chain-of-custody unit.
Stone is sent to the depot where they keep all the items for police auctions, so his corrupt boss can get dibs on a tractor for his son-in-law. While he's there, he gets talking to one of the mechanics about a car used to smuggle a large shipment of cocaine and learns the guy was bailed for a significant sum of money.
What I liked about this was the thought process put into it, the little details which ping on Stone's subconscious. To most people the details wouldn't matter but to someone with Stone - and Waters' - experience, they matter a lot. Stone goads Waters into helping him out and in turn, Stones ends up working undercover at the Casino the drug dealer also works at. This is a pretty funny scene as it turns out that Stone is quite a charming people person, making friends with the other backroom staff and seemingly enjoying himself doing it. It also becomes apparent that the staff know that criminal activity is happening right in front of them but they refuse to acknowledge it and try to stop Stone poking his nose into it.
So far, things have been rather light and off-kilter, with some funny character moments, such as Stone eating a slice of lemon covered in tabasco sauce then convincing Waters to try it. Its such a really random and bizarre touch. The montage of Stone working in the casino and engaging with his fellow workers is also really amusing. However once the pair hit the apartment things take a more sombre turn. The enormity of the task before them sets in and they start to struggle to maintain a professional composure. Which is difficult with a nigh-impenetrable vault, hostages anda patrol officer who may have stumbled into their operation.
As the pair make more and more discoveries about the vault (its contents) and the people who built it, the more their grip on their sanity starts to unfurl. The acting becomes a lot more intense. Elijah Woods eyes were once filled with innocent wonder in the Lord of the Rings trilogy but now those same expressive eyes are those of a strung-out crazy guy whose partner is Nicolas Cage! Cage, on the other hand, keeps a lid on the crazy, letting it out in small moments and instead presenting a coolness under pressure.
The technical elements of the film work are all of a very high standard. The editing, cinematography and lighting (a very important element when the film moves to the apartment) are all very atmospheric. The soundtrack also helps build a very off-centre atmosphere, drawing on a number of genres to provide light and dark and many shades in between.
As much as I liked this film, there is something not quite thought through about the whole vault-under-the-apartment business, and especially with what it contains. Both stretch the credibility of the story and threaten to pull you out of it if you think about either of them for too long. Both Cage and Woods are very good but I wasn't too impressed by Sky Ferreira who plays the girl they find in the apartment. However directors Benjamin and Alex Brewer keep their first feature very off-kilter, adding new layers as things progress, pushing their protagonists into an ever-deepening well that they might not be able to get out of.
6 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)