‘The Trust’ Review: Nicolas Cage Fulfills His Semi-Annual Good Movie Quota
Let’s get this out of the way up front: No, Nicolas Cage does not go “Full Cage” in The Trust. He goes about half-Full Cage, or maybe half-Empty Cage — your Cage mileage may vary. For the record, this reviewer finds it to be the former in this somewhat sharp, darkly comedic little thriller from directors Ben and Alex Brewer, with the former making his feature directing debut. Cage returns to the Las Vegas he once famously left, joined by Elijah Wood for a simple but mostly effective heist flick.
Cage and Wood co-star as as a pair of jaded cops whose investigation into a simple drug case leads them to a potentially huge payoff. Although lacking the frenetic, complex energy of Steven Soderbergh’s Vegas heist trilogy, The Trust boasts a similarly cool ’70s vibe, with the tone and narrative of a little-seen retro gem.
In keeping with that aesthetic, Cage plays an earnest detective named Jim Stone (yes, really) whose commitment to improving his department has kept his career in a holding pattern. Wood’s lieutenant David Waters (yes, really) is likewise disillusioned with his career path, as illustrated by a rote opening sequence in which a prostitute bounces on top of him while he numbly stares at a mole on her ribcage. Together, the jaded duo are ripe for corruption, but unlike your typical dirty cop thriller, The Trust examines the other end of the amoral spectrum. Stone and Waters aren’t ardently despicable; they’re just a couple of guys trying to escape the inertia and tedium of their daily lives, and their criminal endeavor is a casual one — almost shockingly so, and for that it’s almost more worrisome than the average greasy crook.
After a little surveillance involving a humorous sequence in which Cage poses as a hotel service worker, the duo uncover a vault hidden in a laundromat, more easily accessible from the apartment above. All they have to do is subdue the person who resides above the laundromat and use an industrial drill to get access to the lock’s combination — simple enough, but of course there’s just one tiny complication in the form of the young woman.
The Trust has a few flaws, chief among which is the aforementioned woman. Played by Sky Ferreira (The Green Inferno), the character is credited only as “Woman,” and though her part in complicating the heist is a predictable one, she’s given almost no dialogue and no real characterization. Instead, she functions as mere plot device, with most of her screen time spent crying with mascara streaming down her face. Were it not for the final scene, Ferreira’s part would be utterly pointless, and the fact that you can’t discuss her role in the film without spoiling it is also troubling. If you can’t talk about a woman’s part in a movie, then she doesn’t really have much value at all.
There are only two other women involved in the film: Waters’ ex-girlfriend who is never seen, but whose presence is known via a pile of boxes and an old shirt Waters uses to clean up a pile of cat feces; and the prostitute from the opening scene, who is given no lines but appears fully nude. This is — obviously — kind of a problem, and were it not for the lack of fully-formed (or clothed) women, The Trust would be a more effective and solid thriller.
The unfortunate scarcity of women aside, The Trust is mostly good. Cage and Wood have excellent chemistry, and it would be awesome to see them in a serialized TV version of this story, maybe one in which we watch the unlikely and unassuming cop duo clumsily attempt various corrupt endeavors. Maybe in a season of Fargo. Jerry Lewis makes a rare on-screen appearance as Cage’s retired cop father, and though he only has two scenes, it’s never not good to see him.
Cage’s particular persona marries well with the specific brand of black humor, and though the tone is quite familiar and the content is not all that edgy, he’s a total delight to watch. Wood’s proclivity for darker material and his naturally earnest appearance make him an easy fit, while his more subdued acting style works as an effortless foil for Cage’s idiosyncratic tendencies.
In recent years, Cage has capitalized on the Full Cage meme, starring in numerous and forgettable DTV thrillers that paint by the same rote numbers again and again. This manufactured assembly line of underwhelming movies makes it all the more delightful when Cage turns out a film that’s actually good, awakening from his on-screen stupor to deliver a very enjoyable performance that — paired with Wood’s — elevates The Trust above the kind of simple thriller you might have rented at a Blockbuster in 2004.