Nicolas Cage is an absolute treat in The Trust, the heist movie two-hander from first-time directors Alex and Ben Brewer. Cage plays David Stone, a senior cop on the Las Vegas PD who smells something fishy when he finds out about the high stakes bail of a local drug dealer. Suspecting that there might be something in it for him, he recruits the help of fellow cop David (Elijah Wood). Together they uncover a mysterious high security safe hidden beneath an apartment building and decide to keep whatever treasure they may find for themselves.
For every creaky narrative development in the script (co-written by Ben, and Adam Hirsch), there are a number of really interesting ideas at play. Firstly, there’s the surface sheen. While much of the middle section takes place in a single location, the Brewers manage to shine a light on the oft-forgotten areas of urban deprivation beneath Las Vegas’ unique glitzy veneer: a side of Sin City that’s rarely seen on film.
That’s not to say they don’t indulge in the neon funk on occasion, and Sean Porter (cinematographer of Green Room) shoots it well. The Brewers also orchestrate a handful of Paul Thomas Anderson-esque long takes, often impressively achieved within really tight spaces. Another PTA-like feature is the use of music. Some may draw sonic comparisons with Tarantino, but I was reminded more of Anderson, particularly by the use of The Knights’ song Tipping Strings. The witty jukebox soundtrack is held together well by Reza Safina’s effective original score.
But, all this ultimately becomes secondary to the Cage factor. Whether you enjoy Nicolas Cage’s whack job shtick, or find it infuriating, is the million-dollar question. I’m far from a devotee, but I do enjoy him more often than not, even in his bargain bin roles, so this was a treat for me. Cage is an unhinged delight. With a constant feed of quirky lines, he totally owns this character and delivers one of his best performances this side of Kick-Ass.
Wood rounds out the twofer, and they make for a fun pairing. Wood is undoubtedly the straight man, and he instils a real sincerity to the role, as David drifts between empathy, confusion and paranoia. It’s that paranoia that drives the third act and introduces an interesting American Dream pirates’ lust element.
However, for all the thoughtful depth the Brewers inject into the third act and the effectively ratcheted tension, The Trust plays best as a stylishly made oddball comedy… but only if you can handle the Cage.