No law dictates that every movie about rural-based robbers must be compared to “Hell or High Water,” but it’s going to be a tempting comparison from hereon out given the way that film seamlessly connected geographic isolation with the self-defeating act. Director Adam Smith and writer Alastair Simmons try something similar with the dwellers of a secluded Irish mobile-home compound in “Trespass Against Us” to mixed effect. It’s passable as a crime thriller but genuinely compelling as the story of one father’s struggle.
That delinquent dad is Michael Fassbender’s Chad Cutler, the most put-together offspring of patriarch Colby (Brendan Gleeson), a Jim Jones-type who inspires a religiously-tinged devotion from his kin. Chad has entered the family trade of larceny, though with significant hesitation due in part to pressure from his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) to provide some semblance of normality for their two young kids. She wants stability, both in his profession and their living quarters.
There’s no grand moment of conscience for Chad in “Trespass Against Us.” He would rather find some way to please both masters in his life by continuing with extralegal measures away from the Cutler shantytown. But given the escalation of activity demanded by Colby, such a grand bargain becomes exceedingly elusive. Fassbender gives the movie real weight as he ponders which side of the divide Chad would like to fall. It’s a more repressed, bottled-up version of the characters he typically animates, and the more internalized portrayal works for Chad, a man who projects authority without really ever experiencing much autonomy. Discovering who he is proves the greater draw than what he does. B /