Low-key, gangster indie Trespass Against Us centres around a group of Irish travellers with a criminal bent. A vehicle for Michael Fassbender to flex his already established acting muscles, with a few other big names enlisted, despite smooth direction and well-written dialogue Trespass still doesn’t convince.

Free-spirited Chad Cutler (Fassbender) lives in a small traveller community with his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshall), father Colby Cutler (Brendan Gleeson), three kids and a large extended cast of brothers and cousins; including the buffoonish Lester (Trespass’ supposed comedic value). Narrowly evading the police day-to-day, the community make their money from reckless and unapologetic petty crimes and robberies under the command of controlling patriarch Colby. Never knowing if Chad will return from a heist, be killed or jailed for good and increasingly dissatisfied with the instability of this lifestyle and its effect on her children, Kelly pressurises him to escape the community and lead a less nomadic, conventional life. When they both start to prepare for their exit, a majorly lucrative job comes up on the horizon and Colby, who would do anything to keep his family together, is unwilling to let them go.

Fassbender’s strong performance is noteworthily complete with an on-point country-twang, but Gleeson’s controlling, boozy, overweight, track-suited bravado as Colby is pitch perfect. Marshall too is convincing as the fiery, worrying mother, while Gerard Kearn’s Lester oddball behaviour proves more distracting than funny. Avoiding the bad taste, cliché and ridicule that’s too familiar in traveller portrayal; Trespass gives way to universal everyday concerns, placing its focus on an intensely limiting familial bond as well as the societal bigotry the travelling community face. 

Impressive as director Adam Smith’s first full-length feature sometimes is, nothing can save the film from its banal familial drama. Perhaps, Smith admirably wanted to represent this marginalised group in a more optimistic light and keep the tone of the film upbeat? Instead, at the expense of his film, he misses out on any necessary darker undercurrent. The countless car chases and heist scenes lacking in intensity or grit can’t disguise the film’s predictability and mawkish sentimentality. A tonally unhappy mix of gangster film and family drama, Trespass never wrestles free of or exceeds either genre.

Words by Daniel Theophanous

Tresspass Against Us is released in UK cinemas on the 3rd of March