Trespass Against Us (Adam Smith, UK) — Special Presentations

tresspassagainstusBy Adam Nayman

In a film filled with significant canines—from an accidentally immolated mutt to a prize police-unit sniffer to a redemptive purebred puppy—Michael Fassbender’s hangdog eyes are best in show: after all, acting Shame is right in our hero’s wheelhouse. As Chad, a reckless, criminally-inclined traveller caught somewhere between his firebrand father’s (Brendan Gleeson) defiantly iconoclastic isolationism and his own desire to start a better life elsewhere with his wife and kids, Fassbender evinces inner turmoil with a much lighter touch than in his films for Steve McQueen. Accordingly, UK TV veteran Adam Smith’s feature debut is better when emphasizing its star’s rascally charm or shows of fatherly affection rather than his short fuse: if I never watch another extended scene of vicious, alpha-dog one-upmanship in a gritty British drama again, it’ll be too soon. That goes double for tersely written interrogation scenes featuring coolly impassive crooks against consternated local constables. And, while we’re at it, it goes triple for Gleeson’s patented ingratiating menace, which by now plays as the skillful master actor’s routine that it is and nothing more. An early cameo by a trained falcon suggests Chad’s yearning to fly away (and also that Smith has seen Ken Loach’s Kes [1969]), and it’s that same on-the-nose-ness, multiplied across the film’s running time, that undermines the film’s sturdy dramatic arc and absorbing local texture.