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Not even hunky Michael Fassbender playing Irish gypsy can save aimless Trespass Against Us

If you missed a documentary or two and didn’t get your education through the Brit import reality series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, you might watch Trespass Against Us and wonder why Michael Fassbender’s camping holiday has gone so awry.
trespass
Michael Fassbender goes head to head — literally and figuratively — with Brendan Gleeson in Trespass Against Us.

If you missed a documentary or two and didn’t get your education through the Brit import reality series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, you might watch Trespass Against Us and wonder why Michael Fassbender’s camping holiday has gone so awry.  

Remember the gypsy camp in Snatch, with Brad Pitt? Thematically the two films are the similar, and the accent almost as indecipherable, though Trespass is a lot less fun.

Fassbender plays Chad Cutler, a member of the Irish Traveller community, an itinerant group that earns money from odd-jobs, or, in the Cutler family’s case, from thievery. Chad’s group is currently causing trouble and tearing up the countryside in a scenic spot in England — their campers, vans and makeshift homes ringed around a bonfire and dotted with highchairs, trash and wandering animals.

(Fassbender is the film’s biggest draw, but also its biggest problem: it’s not the actor’s fault that he’s too pretty to live in such squalor, but some greasy hair, maybe?)

Colby (Brendan Gleeson) is the patriarch of this ragtag group, a man given to holding court at the fire each night and questioning “dodgy” theories, like the earth being round, and evolution. He hates the fact that his grandkids go to school and finds every opportunity to coax young grandson Tyson (Georgie Smith) over to the thug life.

Chad has made promises to his wife (Lyndsey Marshall, the most sympathetic character in the film) that they’ll move into a proper house, that the kids will go to school consistently, and that she won’t have to wait up each night wondering if he has been nabbed by the police. “You can’t stand up to your dad, that’s your problem.” Chad has made moves to settle his family in the town but is too afraid to tell Col. No one outside the community will help; no one wants to be on Col’s bad side.

A nighttime robbery at the home of a prominent magistrate gets botched spectacularly and results in even greater scrutiny by the local police. The job seems to have been designed by Col to sacrifice his son, or as retribution to the authorities, but it’s a plot thread that’s left dangling.

We know precious little about any of the characters, and are invested in none of them. Too bad, because I bet there’s a really interesting backstory there somewhere. There are one or two fleeting moments where we believe the “family first” rhetoric spewed by Colby, but overall it feels as though happenstance — not blood — brought this tribe together.

Director Adam Smith tries to pump life into a lacklustre script (by Alastair Siddons) with a trio of jazzy car chases between Chad and the town’s Keystone Cops, an energetic but far-fetched reprieve from the idleness that permeates the film. The end result of Trespass Against Us is a movie as aimless as the Cutler clan itself.

Trespass Against Us opens Friday at the Park.