Ending with a ludicrous freeze-frame straight from an eighties-tastic US sitcom, this debut feature from director Adam Smith is all over the shop. With little rhyme or reason it veers uncomfortably between gritty family drama, whimsical comedy and full-blown heist thriller. Smith – a frequent collaborator with the Chemical Brothers – never seems to get a complete handle on what he wants the film to be. It’s a shame, as this lack of a clear, concrete vision means powerful moments and committed performances from a cast that includes Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson largely go to waste.
Fassbender is Chad Cutler, a prominent member of a close-knit travelling community currently camped somewhere in the West Country. Their accents are thick as molasses, they call everybody “mush” and afternoons are wiled away by piling into a beat-up station wagon and chasing rabbits through open fields. It’s not all fun and games, though. Chad isn’t getting any younger, the caravan he shares with devoted wife Kelly (the impressive Lyndsey Marshal) and their two little nippers isn’t getting any bigger, and if he wants a better life for his young family he badly needs to do something about it. Trouble is; employment options for career criminals who can’t read or write aren’t all that plentiful.
Breaking free from the only life he’s ever known also means getting shot of his old man Colby (Gleeson), a stuck-in-his-ways patriarch who lords it over his ragtag clan like a tracksuit-wearing mafia don. Paranoid, manipulative and, at times, outright menacing, he chides Chad for wanting his kids to get an education and pressures him into taking on another job. This means jumping behind the wheel, looting the countryside pile of a lord lieutenant and – most crucially – giving the slip to a local police force desperate to bring them all down.
Smith stages the extended getaway sequence with real swagger, but the focus and control he shows in pulling off a breakneck car chase are worryingly absent elsewhere. Tonally and narratively the film is just too disjointed. Plot threads produce no payoff (the supposedly life-changing score the Cutler clan make off with is barely mentioned again), support players are little more than colourful distractions and large stretches of meandering, water-treading melodrama allow flashes of inspiration to get lost in the shuffle. There are scenes that unquestionably strike a chord, yet they never come together to form a cohesive and satisfying whole.
Trespass Against Us is released on March 3rd