Trespass Against Us benefits from solid performances by Irish duo
Typically muscular performances from Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson anchor what is otherwise a disjointed debut feature from music videos director Adam Smith, writes Damon Smith
THE sins of a hard-nosed, bullying father are compounded by a proud and reckless son in Trespass Against Us, the feature film debut of music videos director Adam Smith.
Shot on location in sun-dappled Gloucester, this study of a close-knit community of Travellers is a clutter of half-formed themes and plot strands.
Scriptwriter Alastair Siddons invents a stylized vernacular for his vagabonds – "Hell hath no fury like a locked-up super-goat!" – and flings the ensemble cast into a hard-fought wrestling match with west country accents as thick as clotted cream.
Formidable leading men Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson admit defeat on several occasions, slipping into their Irish accents during heated exchanges while co-stars gamely persist.
Jarring tonal shifts between melodrama, offbeat comedy and heartwarming sentiment do little to dispel the nagging feeling that Smith's picture, for all its fleeting pleasures, is as scrappy and roughly hewn as the illiterate, feuding characters it portrays.
Colby Cutler (Gleeson) presides over a fiefdom of caravans and campfires with a clenched rather than an iron fist. He meets dissent with biblical scripture and repeatedly reminds other families to "stay tight" in the face of intimidation from the local constabulary including PC Lovage (Rory Kinnear).
Colby's son Chad (Fassbender) cowers in the old man's shadow, but is secretly planning to transplant his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and their two children, Tyson (Georgie Smith) and Mini (Kacie Anderson), to a neighbouring site. The move would be Chad's first public act of rebellion and the prodigal son chews nervously on the repercussions of striking out alone.
His indecision rankles Kelly and during one of their arguments, she angrily taunts Chad: "If you ain't told your dad, it don't count for nothing anyway."
In order to finance the move, Chad leads night-time raids on country houses flanked by his joy-riding lieutenants, Kenny (Killian Scott), Norman (Tony Way), Sampson (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Lester (Gerard Kearns). A close brush with the law during one of these heists brings into focus everything at stake.
"I'm just trying to look after my family," Chad rages to his father.
"I'm your family," Colby sternly reminds his boy.
Trespass Against Us is disjointed, but Fassbender and Gleeson anchor the film with typically muscular performances born of machismo and wounded pride. Marshal takes her undernourished scenes by the scruff of the neck and 10-year-old newcomer Georgie Smith is luminous.
Director Adam Smith orchestrates set pieces with flair, including two police pursuits set to a pulsating score by The Chemical Brothers.
Animal lovers will be distraught at the senseless deaths of two dogs: one takes its final bark off screen while the other has its neck snapped to illustrate the lengths desperate fathers will go to protect their ramshackle kingdoms.
Man's best friend is himself.
TRESPASS AGAINST US (15, 100 mins) Drama/Romance/Action. Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Sean Harris, Rory Kinnear, Georgie Smith, Kacie Anderson, Killian Scott, Tony Way, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Gerard Kearns. Director: Adam Smith