‘The Trust’ Review: Nicolas Cage Gets Kooky as LVPD Cop | SXSW 2016

     March 14, 2016


The Trust is one big mixed bag, which makes it especially tough to review. It’s engaging from start to finish, but there isn’t much depth to the film. Nicolas Cage is a blast to watch, but the performance doesn’t serve the story well. It comes with a curious twist, but it isn’t particularly well earned. Every single compliment and criticism comes with a caveat so the only way to sum up the experience is by dubbing it a fine film, but one you certainly don’t need to see. 

The movie stars Cage and Elijah Wood as two cops working in the Las Vegas Police Department’s evidence room. Neither is particularly passionate about what they do, so when Jim (Cage) finds a very pricy bail receipt connected to a drug-related arrest, he suspects there’s much more where that came from. He enlists David (Wood) to help him track down and secure the cash so that they can make off with the money themselves.

The Trust has strong performances, a curious narrative and it’s fairly well crafted, but what keeps it from being an above average heist movie are the small details. Jim is as quirky as they come and David doesn’t take his job as seriously as he should, but it’s clear that they’re both smart guys so even though their scheme is incredibly risky, there is a sense that they could pull it off, which keeps the film engaging all the way through.

However, if you look beyond the basic plot of two guys trying to pull off a heist, The Trust is pretty thin and most of the elements thrown in to beef up the characters or their situation either go nowhere or don’t make much sense. For example, at the beginning of the film, you might get the impression that Jim and David are trying to track down the stash so that they can expose the drug dealers and save the day. The movie definitely sells them as guys who find their jobs unfulfilling so the desire to take on a more exciting assignment behind their superior’s back makes sense, but the problem is, that’s not what the movie is about.


Image via SXSW

Eventually it becomes clear that Jim and David aren’t out to be heroes but rather, to get rich quick. Not only is it a major problem that this isn’t made clear right from the start, but The Trust also fails to convey why Jim and David would want to risk everything for big money. Yes, you could make the argument that anyone would love to be financially secure for the rest of their lives, but when you’re talking about a feature narrative, there needs to be more than that in order to compel viewers to root for these guys, especially because they’re hard to connect to as individuals.

Wood keeps it pretty consistent as David, selling him as the more grounded and likable of the two, but Cage is all over the place as Jim, for better or worse. There’s nothing duller than a character that keeps within the confines of his stereotype, but Jim becomes such a wild card that it makes him impossible to track, which is a major problem for a heist movie where one wrong move could ruin the operation. The incessant shifts from super serious to kooky and back again also complicate Jim’s relationship with David. It’s tough to figure out whether the two have a genuine friendship or if David is just playing along because Jim’s a bit higher up on the ladder. And the same goes for their status at the LVPD. One moment, it seems as though their colleagues don’t respect them, but the next, they’re doing favors for them. Had The Trust painted a clearer picture of what an average day was like for the pair at the beginning that likely would have upped the stakes for both characters big time later on.

If you take the sit back and relax approach to The Trust, there’s a good deal of fun to be had with Cage’s wacky performance and it’s also easy to get swept up in the heist itself thanks to the need to know whether they pull it off. But, if you dare give the scenario a second thought, the lack of character development and the abundance of plot holes could easily extinguish the thrill of the film. There’s also one especially devastating issue with The Trust and it’s the fact that it essentially goes nowhere and will leave you wondering what was the point in sitting through the whole thing to begin with. That alone does make it tough to recommend, but that’s not to say it’s a bad film by any means. The script needs serious work and it probably would have served the story better if directors Ben and Alex Brewer reined Cage in a bit, but there are sure signs of quality work all around, especially when it comes to the visuals and how the Brewers use them to really pull you into the film.

Grade: B-

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