This debut feature film from TV director Adam Smith is a curious affair. Elements of this crime drama/family saga are good - in particular, performances from two of Ireland's finest actors, Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson - but as a whole it fails to make a lasting impact.
Shot in the intimate, gritty style of realist British drama, Trespass Against Us introduces the Cutler Family, who live in a commune of caravans in Gloucestershire, West Country. Scriptwriter Alastair Siddons was inspired by a real-life family of travellers who caused chaos in Gloucestershire some years ago, and his story follows a family of thieves and troublemakers on heists and car chases, while also examining a brewing family feud.
The family is led by patriarch Colby (Gleeson), who keeps a tight rein on a family of misfits who live on the margins and taunt the local police, led by PC Lovage (Rory Kinnear). Life gets more complicated when Colby's son and heir, Chad (Fassbender), begins to mingle more with the locals, and sends his two children to the local school. Chad is keen for his children to have the education he never did - and it's this ambition that delivers the tension between father and son.
Gleeson and Fassbender are good sparring partners and present interesting, complex characters, even if neither is very likeable. The young Georgie Smith is excellent as Chad's young son, Tyson, and goes some way to pulling us in. He offers a slither of hope in what is a rather bleak situation.
A constantly switching tone keeps us at arm's length; one minute Trespass Against Us is intimate and family focused, the next it's a fast-paced heist film with some thrilling car chases. In-between there's some quirky humour, which doesn't quite relieve the tension - other than when Chad stops mid-getaway to buy a packet of cigarettes - now, that's funny.
The ingredients for a punchy, gritty and thoughtful film are all here, but inconsistent direction and a lack of narrative highs and lows means Trespass Against Me feels like a missed opportunity. Be reassured though, Michael Fassbender doesn't let his fans down.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Adam Smith
Running Time: 99 mins
Rating: R13 (Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb)
Verdict: Good performances save this crime-family drama.