Las Vegas is home to ordinary people who take the bus to work like everyone else. In The Trust, the stylish new heist film from Alex and Benjamin Brewer, we get a brief, satisfying, darkly comic peek at everyday Vegas life as lived by low-level LVPD officers. Then the film quickly loses focus and forgets the quirky characters that make the city — and the story — special.
Cops Waters (Elijah Wood) and Stone (Nicolas Cage) are bored. Waters can barely muster enthusiasm for the prostitute he’s paid for, and Stone’s stuck in the impound warehouse, taking photos of a confiscated tractor his boss wants to snatch for his kid. Pretty much everything in the warehouse is up for grabs, though it becomes clear that each piece of property or evidence is somewhat cursed by bad karmic mojo. Stone’s so fed up he doesn’t care and uses a stash of coke found in an impounded car to track down a big haul from some drug dealers — he's looking for a score, not a bust, and he convinces the uninterested Waters to take a chance on the scam. All this sounds like a fine time at the movies, right? For the first 37 minutes, it is.
The first quarter of the film is packed with terse, quick-fire dialogue characteristic of Raymond Chandler knockoffs, plus some funny local weirdos we meet along the way, like a criminal who bursts from a closet to spark a short-lived, window-jumping chase scene. The Trust seems like the perfect vehicle for Nic Cage to be Nic Cage and for straight-man foil Elijah Wood to over-enunciate every line like he’s back in Middle-Earth. But when Stone shoots a gun dealer point blank for no discernible reason — and with no reaction shots to let us appraise how he feels about what’s transpired — the movie launches into another hour and a half of jumbled heisting and slow-moving action, all in direct opposition to the slick, music video–ish montages that came earlier, like the one about Stone being the life of the party as an undercover server at a casino.
Legendary Rat Packer Jerry Lewis shows up as Stone’s father, but he’s given a few lines of dialogue and then discarded. The same goes for Sky Ferreira, whose character is credited as “Woman” and is mostly silent, though she seems as if she should be important, since there’s tension around whether either of the bad cops will kill her for interrupting their heist. It’s tough to pull off the tension when we don’t get to know or care about any other people outside of Waters and Stone. The top-billed female characters after “Woman” are “Prostitute #1,” “Prostitute #2,” “Pretty Hotel Worker,” “Cute Evidence Technician” and “Handjob Girl.” Aside from the obvious problems with that, these lackluster supporting characters get at why the story dissipates as it goes. Good heist movies feature full-fledged characters whose jobs are to complicate the story. Handjob Girl will not be that person.