The Cutlers are a crime family that live a gypsy-like lifestyle and live in a makeshift caravan park in the countryside of Gloucestershire. They rob stately homes through a series of daring smash and grab raids. And the local police seem unable to pin anything on them, although they have their suspicions.
Colby (Brendan Gleeson) is the stern and tyrannical patriarch of this unusual crime family and he rules with an iron fist. His oldest son is the illiterate Chad (Michael Fassbender), who knows little beyond this life of crime he has been raised into. He is the getaway driver for the gang. But when Chad realises that his two children, daughter Mini (Kacie Anderson) and son Tyson (Georgie Smith), are suffering because of this lifestyle he is desperate to secure a better life for them. But breaking away from his father’s influence and the bonds of this family are not easy.
This hard-hitting drama is the debut feature film for director Adam Smith, an award-winning director of documentaries, commercials, television series and music videos, who filmed Don’t Think, the concert movie about the Chemical Brothers. The film has the bleak feel of early Shane Meadows about it. Smith’s pacing is a little uneven, although he proves himself a great director of action with a couple of superb and inventively staged car chases that are highlights.
Trespass Against Us is the first feature script from Alastair Siddons, a former director, but he gives us a strong sense of place and the unusual dynamics of this crime family. The characters are loosely based on members of a real-life crime family. But that is also one of the film’s main drawbacks – apart from Chad and Colby we don’t really get to empathise with any of the characters.
This is the second time this year Gleeson and Fassbender have played father and son – the first time was in the video game adaptation of Assassin’s Creed, but the less said about that the better. As the menacing and manipulative Colby, Gleeson delivers probably his strongest performance for quite some time here, and makes good use of his intimidating presence. For his part Fassbender manages to bring some subtle touches to his performance as Chad. The dynamic between the pair adds tension to their complex love-hate relationship. We’ve seen this sort of father-son dynamic before, it’s just the backdrop here is a little different. However, their accents are a bit thick at times and sometimes the dialogue is a little hard to understand.
Lyndsey Marshal is also good as Kelly, Chad’s wife, who has grown tired of this life style, and she urges Chad to get away from his father’s insidious influence. Sean Harris (from Prometheus, etc) plays the troubled Gordon Bennett, a disturbed member of the extended Colby clan whose penchant for pyrotechnics sometimes gets out of hand and endangers others. Rory Kinnear (Skyfall) makes a strong impression as the frustrated local policeman who is trying to put an end to the Cutler’s crime spree.
Cinematographer Eduard Grau (A Single Man) captures a gritty aesthetic that perfectly suits the material. The grim nature of the Cutler’s miserable environment is captured effectively by Nick Palmer’s production design. The thumping soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers adds to the sense of energy that drives much of the film.
Director: Adam Smith
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal
Release Date: 23 February 2017 (limited)
Rating: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television