Two low-level Las Vegas cops, working dull administrative jobs, stumble on what they believe to be a huge stash of cash locked in a vault in a nondescript building, and set about relieving its mysterious owners of the contents – with horrific and unexpected consequences.
In May 1980, three Massachusetts police officers broke into the Depositors Trust Bank safety deposit boxes, making off with an estimated $15 million in cash and jewels. This true crime tale, the subject of bluntly-titled 1990 TV movie The Cops Are Robbers (starring Ed Asner and James Keach), is evidently the inspiration for this interesting failure from newcomers Alex and Benjamin Brewer.
Academy Award winner turned direct-to-video staple Nicolas Cage gives one of his loosest, goofiest and most enjoyable performances in years as Stone, a modestly corrupt Las Vegas cop stuck in a crappy administrative job, living with his doddering dad (Jerry Lewis) and lumbered with a partner (Elijah Wood) who’d rather be smoking dope than logging evidence. Hearing that a low-level drug dealer has quickly posted bailed with $200,000 in cash, Stone follows the money’s source to a bank-grade vault in a nondescript storefront, believing that it contains the proceeds of local crimes, and convinces his partner to help him break in to the vault, hoping to make out like bandits with some criminals’ ill-gotten gains. But just as the innocent-looking building conceals a remarkable secret, so Stone’s outwardly jovial demeanour hides a clear-eyed and cold-blooded determination to see the robbery through – at any cost.
This sudden change in Cage’s character, from chirpy opportunist to stone-cold killer, causes an equally seismic tonal shift in The Trust, as if the Mark Wahlberg-Will Ferrell comedy The Other Guys had turned into Kill List half way through, and although the first half is hugely enjoyable (due in no small part to Cage and Wood’s performances), appreciation of the film as a whole depends on one’s ability to cope with this change. Like Stone and Wood and their elaborate heist, the Brewer brothers’ grasp ultimately exceeds their reach – but for a while there, they were really onto something.
Cage and Wood make a hugely enjoyable double act (has True Detective season three been cast yet?) in this deceptively dark thriller with comic undertones, arguably sunk by a seismic tonal shift that not only wipes the smile off your face, but leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Tune into its offbeat frequency, however, and there is much to enjoy. ★★★