Give me the gold. I want the gold.
If I’m being totally honest, though I’ve seen The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre… it wasn’t the first film that came to mind while revisiting Trespass for the first time in 15 years or so. I mention this because apparently Trespass being a modern urban riff on Treasure was at the forefront of everyone’s minds who made the film. And that’s totally great. Treasure really is the… ahem… gold standard of films about greeds ability to destroy us. Rather, the film that kept leaping to mind for me was the recent, and criminally underseen, Black Sea. This high seas adventure starring Jude Law was a fantastic gem with all the great elements of men on a mission, Nazi gold, and yes… the destructive power of greed.
Trespass is the textbook definition of a potboiler. Taking place almost entirely inside of an abandoned urban warehouse that very quickly becomes the wrong place at the wrong time, writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (you know, the team that brought you Back To The Future) wind up the jack in the box with varying parties converging on the warehouse for differing nefarious reasons, and then they hand the box over to Walter Hill and let him turn the box until it pops.
In Hill’s hands, a whole feast of beloved actors have a chance to have a great time being bad. The tragically recently departed Bill Paxton (Vince) is perhaps the heart of Trespass, with William Sadler (Don) as his singularly focused accomplice. These two firemen are handed a literal treasure map by a guilt ridden man trapped in a blazing fire who confesses to a decades old robbery, hands them a map, and promptly allows himself to be engulfed in flame. It’s a shocking but effective opening for a modern day treasure hunt. Our leads begin innocently enough, with a willingness to ignore the fact that the stolen gold once belonged to the Catholic Church, but not to get in any deeper than that.
Off to an abandoned warehouse in a part of the city from which industry has moved on, Paxton and Sadler begin their hunt in earnest… metal detector in hand, and lies told to significant others about where they’d be for the day. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the street organization run by Ice-T’s King James has chosen this very same warehouse as a place to conduct their less-than-reputable business. With a street deal gone wrong, Paxton accidentally witnesses James’ gang murder a turncoat, and the true tension begins. With all the loose ends tied off (the warehouse is outside normal police patrols, no one knows they’re there, and no one knows what the other party really wants), Hill is able to explore issues of gentrification, racial divide, greed, and the ratcheting of tension every thriller needs.
But there’s not TOO much exploring going on here. Like I said… this is a potboiler. Everything that can go wrong is going to. Tensions between characters are going to rise. True colors will shine through. Greed will do what greed will do. The fun is in how this cast, in this setting, in this year of our Lord 1992 all mixes together. And watching Ice T and Ice Cube have beef, while also trying to kill Bill Paxton and William Sadler, whom are also having beef (while holding Argyle from Die Hard hostage, and being forced to collaborate with a squatter they stumbled across played by Art Evans who steals this movie right out from under everyone)… is a good deal of fun.
There’s not a lot that rises above to make this film more than the sum of its parts. It’s not a Walter Hill masterwork by any stretch. But what you get here is solid work all around. It’s a script that hermetically seals itself off from the outside world just enough to work. The ensemble cast is having an absolute blast playing with early 90s racial tensions (which isn’t generally something that plays as as “fun”). Hill toys around with an almost proto “found footage” element with one character filming the events taking place and the audience occasionally seeing through that camera’s eye. It’s only worth mentioning because that style has become so prominent today, and it’s at least an injection of something “different” thrown into the mix.
In the end… greed is bad, and Walter Hill’s Trespass is good.
You’ll never hear me complain about a Walter Hill joint getting a Blu-ray release. And I’m thrilled about this one. It’s not a great film, but it is a great time capsule. That said, I’m already a little bit confused by the new Shout Selects label. My sense was that it was intended to be a kind of “Criterion Collection” of Shout genre titles. A prestige line. And I’m just not totally seeing it. They released their own recent acquisition The Ticket under the Select line, which feels dubious, though I haven’t seen the film. A quick rundown of the titles released under this label includes more than a few head scratchers, and while Hill’s Streets Of Fire is above reproach and a wonderful selection for the line… Trespass maybe wouldn’t be a title I’d feel compelled to include in a prestige label. Regardless, I’m happy to own it.
- NEW “Fool’s Gold” — An Interview With Actor William Sadler
- NEW “Born Losers” — An Interview With Co-Writer Bob Gale
- NEW “Wrongful Entry” — An Interview With Producer Neil Canton
- NEW “Gang Violation” — The Stunts of Trespass
- NEW “Trigger Happy” — The Weapons of Trespass
- Vintage Featurette: “Behind The Scenes of Trespass”
- Music Video
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
And I’m Out.
Trespass is now available on Blu-ray from Shout Select