Leave it to the sometimes great and sometimes terrible and almost always fascinating Nicolas Cage to somehow put a fresh spin on a simple, one-word response.
At one point in “The Trust,” the young cop played by Elijah Wood is flummoxed by yet another surprise sprung on him by the older cop played by Nicolas Cage.
“What is THIS?” demands Wood.
And Cage responds with verbal combo platter that’s a combination of “Huh?” and “What?” It sounds something like “Whuuuh?” and I know, you kinda had to be there — but just picture Nicolas Cage sporting yet another amazing Nicolas Cage mustache, his eyes darting about as he realizes he’s caught red-handed and he blurts out, “Whuuuh?”
I’m not sure any other actor could do so much with a single syllable.
Cage is somehow understated AND over the top in “The Trust,” a dark and nasty and flat-out funny heist movie about two Las Vegas cops who risk everything for One Big Score and find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into a seemingly hopeless, blood-soaked quagmire.
Oh and by the way: Jerry Lewis plays Cage’s father.
Oh and also: This film is directed by Ben and Alex Brewer, who won an MTV Video Music Award for Jack Ü’s “Where Are U Now?” and show real potential in their feature debut. I mean it.
Apparently it’s Cinematic Law for Nicolas Cage to be in a film every few months (this is the first of six Cage appearances scheduled for 2016) and sometimes Cage appears to be acting with one eye on the paycheck and the other on the EXIT sign, but he throws himself into the role of Stone, a supervisor in the evidence room of the Las Vegas Police Department.
Stone discovers there’s a huge underground vault adjacent to a grocery store and beneath an apartment building — and the vault most likely contains millions upon millions of criminally begat money.
It takes some doing, but Stone is eventually able to convince a young cop named Waters (Elijah Wood) to partner up with him on a risky and just plain insane mission to break into the seemingly impenetrable vault and skip the country before anyone realizes they’re the culprits.
“I’ll do it because I have nothing better to do and I despise my job,” says Waters, who’s still reeling from a broken marriage and seems perpetually depressed.
“You’re a positive thinker and I respect you,” says Stone, who then adds: “And I f—ing dig you.”
The 90-year-old Lewis is effective in a straight dramatic role consisting of only a few quick and quiet scenes with Cage. I’ll admit it, I wanted more Jerry Lewis.
Singer/songwriter/model/actress/social media force Sky Ferreira, who probably never dreamed of being in the same movie as the star of “Cinderfella” (alas, they have no scenes together) is a standout as a feisty woman taken prisoner by the cops when she happens to be in the apartment from which they’re literally going to drill down into the vault. (Just before they commence boring through the floor, Stone cracks to Waters, “You know the drill! HA!”)
Most of the second half of “The Trust” is an extended sequence inside that apartment, as the heist becomes increasingly complicated and yields more than one major surprise. The directors keep the action humming along with some stylish visuals and some nifty musical choices, from compositions by Darian Zahedi of the L.A. duo the Reflections to selections by Wagner and Chopin.
Wood and Cage have a terrific dynamic together. At first Waters seems to look up to Stone as a father figure, and that clouds his perceptions. It takes Waters a long time to realize what should have been obvious from the get-go: Stone is a sociopath who will blow someone’s head off even when there might be an easier way to solve things.
The mustache and the “Whuuuh?” should have tipped him off something wasn’t quite right with this guy.
Saban Films presents a film directed byAlex Brewer and Benjamin Brewer and written by Benjamin Brewer and Adam Hirsch. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated R (for violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use). Opens Friday at AMC Loews Woodridge 18 and on demand.