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Michael Fassbender (left) and Brendan Gleeson in “Trespass Against Us.” | A24

‘Trespass Against Us’ a satisfying blend of family and felonies

SHARE ‘Trespass Against Us’ a satisfying blend of family and felonies
SHARE ‘Trespass Against Us’ a satisfying blend of family and felonies

“Fassbender in Tree with Puppy.”

Sounds like one of those high-volume Hashtag/Snap-Chatty/Instagrammed/Meme/Trendy/YouTubey/Facebook things, yes? Who wouldn’t want to see Michael Fassbender nestled in a tree cradling an adorable puppy?

Well it just so happens the character played by Fassbender in “Trespass Against Us” really does have a puppy-in-a-tree scene, but I’m not going to tell you when and where and why it happens, because it’s worth the journey for you to get there on your own.

This is a strange, rambling, ambitious little hybrid of a movie — equal parts film-festival-friendly dysfunctional family comedy/drama and offbeat crime thriller. Director Adam Smith (shooting Alastair Siddons’ inventive script) doesn’t hit the mark with every chance he takes, but for the most part this is an admirable and successful effort.

It’s as if Guy Ritchie took a stab at “Little Miss Sunshine.”

From the titular nod to the Lord’s Prayer, to a crime patriarch’s convenient interpretation of the New Testament to rationalize his actions, to themes of family betrayal, “Trespass Against Us” is filled with biblical references, not all of them flattering to traditional Christianity.

But this is not a satire mocking faith. It’s an energetic thriller peppered with chase sequences the likes of which you haven’t seen before — including an opening scene involving a rabbit, a dog and a little boy behind the wheel.

The great and screen-filling Brendan Gleeson, also on screen as Ben Affleck’s larger-than-life father in “Live by Night,” plays Colby Cutler, the amoral head of a multi-generational family of roving Irish criminals who pillage in the rural U.K., usually about a half-step ahead of the local authorities. (In movies like this, the cops are often portrayed as clueless buffoons, but there’s a little more going on here.)

Colby’s a force to be reckoned with — but he’s also a brute and a fool who believes the Earth is flat and formal education is a waste of time for his clan.

Fassbender plays Colby’s son Chad, a brilliant getaway driver who shares his father’s thirst for reckless thrills and anti-authority stunts. Chad finds himself indoctrinating his own children to the family business — but of course his wife (Lyndsey Marshal) wants Chad to break the chain of criminality, and Chad himself comes to realize he’d like to create a better, more stable life for his family.

Let the complications ensue!

The most memorable moments in “Trespass Against Us” feature Gleeson and Fassbender, butting heads on a Shakespearean level.

Oh, and Fassbender and the puppy. That was pretty great too.

★★★

A24presents a film directed byAdam Smith and written byAlastair Siddons. Rated R(for pervasive language, some disturbing behavior and brief graphic nudity). Running time: 100minutes. Opens Friday at AMC South Barrington 30 and on demand.

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