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The Trust

D: Alex Brewer, Benjamin Brewer / 93m

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Elijah Wood, Sky Ferreira, Ethan Suplee, Eric Heister, Kenna James, Keston John, Steven Williams, Jerry Lewis

When you’re watching The Trust, the latest no-brainer, substance-lite thriller starring Nicolas Cage, spare a thought for Jerry Lewis (yes, the Jerry Lewis). Urged by Cage to appear as his on-screen dad, Lewis appears in three scenes and amasses roughly a minute of screen time. What, you may be asking, was the point? In fairness, Lewis is ninety, so he may have worked to his potential, but it’s the kind of unkind cameo that will either have audiences, a) wondering if it’s really him, or b) asking themselves, isn’t he dead? The answers (already established) are yes it is, and no he’s not. The better question is, was he so bored that he didn’t have something, anything, better to do?

As it turns out, Lewis gets off lightly, sharing his scenes with Cage and Wood, while the two lead actors get to spar with each other for almost the rest of the movie. Cage is Jim Stone, an evidence technician for the Las Vegas Police Department, stifled by his bosses lack of vision when it comes to his ideas for gathering evidence more efficiently, and treated like a nuisance caller who makes the mistake of giving his name every time. Also working as an evidence technician for the LVPD is Wood’s character, David Waters. Waters is good at his job but he’s too fond of a joke, and smoking weed, to be as uptight as Stone; he’s coasting along, none too ambitious but clearly lacking the wherewithal to make his life better.

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At an auction of property seized by the LVPD, Stone is shown one clever way that drugs have been transported. Looking through the paperwork that went with the bust, Stone spots an anomaly: the guy who was caught was a low-level criminal and yet his $200,000 bail was paid quickly and without fuss. Wondering why someone so inconsequential would have that kind of support, Stone begins to follow him to see who he’s affiliated with. What Stone discovers is a hidden vault located in back of a laundry. But what is actually in the vault? Stone, along with Waters’ help, determines to find out.

Viewers of The Trust – should anyone take such an ill-advised step – will find themselves unsurprised at the dearth of reasonable ideas, the lack of credibility, and the complete absence of tension or drama. They’ll be equally unsurprised at the way in which the narrative unfolds with all the urgency of someone with crippling arthritis trying to navigate a particularly steep set of stairs. In the hands of its directors, the movie stumbles around looking for reasons to keep Stone and Waters together, while ignoring the plain and simple fact that despite the “best” efforts of Cage and Wood, the movie can’t come up with any reason they would ever team up in the first place. It’s the elephant in the room: why would Waters go along with Stone’s plan when there’s so much they don’t know, and so much that could go wrong?

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But hey, this is the movies, and people do the funniest things in the movies, like purchase expensive drilling equipment from a German manufacturer because it’ll be harder to trace (really?), or let a hostage make a phone call during the middle of a heist (that won’t come back to haunt anyone, surely?). It’s a truism that the cleverer the concept the sillier the execution, and The Trust is no different in its attention to making things look and sound absurd. From the now traditional discussion where one person outlines their criminal plan to another in a public place (a Vegas casino bar on this occasion), to Stone and Waters being able to just drop their day job and concentrate on breaking into the vault, the script by co-director Benjamin Brewer and Adam Hirsch cuts narrative corners as if it’s de rigeuer for this sort of movie, and never once gives the viewer the sense that this is all happening in a world anyone could recognise.

And it’s yet another movie that features a performance from Nicolas Cage that has little to offer other than the actor’s trademark tics and quirky line deliveries. It seems incredible that you have to go back to 2013 to find a Cage performance worthy of his talent, but that’s how long it’s been (it was a banner year for Cage, with roles in Joe, The Frozen Ground, and The Croods all reminding us of just how good he can be). Here he looks tired, not quite going through the motions but perilously close to it, his mannerisms and reactions just a touch off from what they would be if he were fully engaged with the material. It’s a shame to see Cage at such a remove from what he can achieve as an actor; perhaps his upcoming turn in Oliver Stone’s Snowden will help turn things around.

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Playing opposite him, Wood does his best but may now be wishing that original choice Jack Huston had been able to play Waters. It’s the “anxious partner” role, the doubting Thomas who sees the potential for disaster at every turn, and who’s proved right (and suffers for it). Since playing a certain Hobbit back at the turn of the century, Wood’s career has been a varied one, but mostly played out in shorts and TV shows. Here he’s competent enough, but like Cage he can’t wrestle anything from the script that will allow him to improve on what he’s been given to work with. As a result, it’s to Wood’s chagrin perhaps that, on occasion, he looks like he’s lost.

Rating: 4/10 – with the narrative proving only occasionally interesting or absorbing, and with the actual vault break-in taking up far too much of the running time, The Trust is more laborious than it needs to be; tedious then, and a waste of both Cage and Wood, and punctuated by unnecessary bursts of violence, it’s a movie that never settles for, or decides on, a consistent tone to help tell its story.