Crime fiction has a long, rich legacy of stories pitting one character’s allegiances against each other. Internal conflict is the engine that generates drama for criminals; torn between conscience and instinct, between right and wrong, or in the case of upcoming British import Trespass Against Us, between family and the law. Which is a long-winded way of saying that a good deal of crime thrillers boil down to “protagonist would rather not do crime, but someone else wants him to do crime, so he must.” And when Michael Fassbender’s your protagonist and Brendan Gleeson is your someone else, you’re off to a pretty strong start.

That’s the broad-strokes description of director Adam Smith’s first narrative feature, having cut his teeth with TV work (he helmed episodes of Little Dorrit and Doctor Who) and the Chemical Brothers concert documentary Don’t Think. Fassbender stars as Chad Cutler, a lifelong criminal bred for scumminess by his stern father Colby (Gleeson). Together, they pretty much run their lawless little corner of the U.K., but anointing a new heir to their criminal throne creates a rift in the clan. Chad wants a better life for his wee lad Tyson and hopes to get the young boy out of The Game once and for all, but Colby won’t be denied so easily. To get Chad back under his thumb, Colby devises a risky operation that involves thievery, car chases, police taunting, and possibly even murder.

The film drew mainly positive reviews out of its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, with critics praising outstanding work from Fassbender and Gleeson alike, locked in a battle of wills and muddled loyalties. A24 will bring the film to American shores on January 20.

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