The Trust (2016)
★★ / ★★★★
The heist black comedy-thriller “The Trust,” written by Adam Hirsch and Benjamin Brewer (who co-directs with Alex Brewer), offers a few morsels of savagely funny situations and enthusiastic performances, but the work fails to deliver a satisfying ending that is equally colorful and inspired as rest of the picture. It is undercooked. And so by the time the end credits rolls, the viewer is inspired to ask what compelled the filmmakers to tell this particular story when they aren’t willing to go all way with its… Las Vegas morality. Here is a black comedy that isn’t willing to get dark enough—doing so would have taken it to a new level.
LVPD cops Stone (Nicolas Cage) and Waters (Elijah Wood) are so bored and unhappy with their jobs, they would do anything to spice it up a little. Punctilious Lieutenant Stone comes across paperwork involving $200,000 worth of bail—paid in a cashier’s check. Suspicious. So he decides to pursue the matter further by following a particular individual who is likely to be a drug dealer. Soon Sergeant Waters is recruited by his superior—who is, at first, reluctant to use his vacation days for surveillance that may not even amount to anything. Still, it beats another night in with his cat. Waters’ attitude changes when they discover a vault in an industrial freezer. It appears that whatever is taken there does not come out. What is inside?
Cage and Wood share wonderful chemistry as police officers who have had it with their careers. They portray their characters as people who went into law enforcement thinking that it would be exciting, like the cop stories on TV and movies, when in fact it is nearly the total opposite. There is slow death in their eyes, and much of their disillusionment is played for laughs. While on the clock, they are sarcastic, they roll their eyes, and make it blatantly obvious to their co-workers that they don’t really want to be there. Here is a story of two people who could’ve used some perspective—a reminder that there is something worse than boredom—prior to deciding to take it upon themselves to take matters into their own hands.
The Brewers direct the film in a workman-like fashion. It is patient and, like Cage’s juicy character, concerned with details. It matters where Stone orders a drill to be used for the heist. It matters to show how humiliated Waters feels when an obnoxious co-worker pulls a prank. It matters that we are presented a mental picture of the building the duo will break into to try to get into the vault. And for this reason, some might consider the picture to be slow. But I think it is one of the film’s best traits because without the details, without the patience, some of the jokes that require excellent timing would not have landed.
But the deeper we get into the story, it becomes all the more apparent that the writers are reluctant to make it as grim as possible—a curiosity because the subjects are bad cops. This timidity does not stem from a love of its characters but rather a feeling that the movie might not be as marketable considering the stars at the helm. But that is a mistake: Cage and Wood have proven themselves willing to take on material that are peculiar and bizarre. They want to be challenged. So, why not go all the way and tell the story without all the unnecessary vacillation? This is a missed opportunity.