“Who’s going to call the cops? The pigeons or the rats?”
One of the most underrated efforts from the golden age of action movies, Trespass is a forgotten genre flick that deserves to be remembered as a classic. Released in the early 90s, the film was a combination of old and new that sadly never took off. The screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (Back To The Future, duh!) was written for the 70s exploitation market, Walter Hill (The Warriors) treated it like a contemporary Western homage to The Treasure Of The Sierra Mandre, Ice T/Ice Cube provided early hip-hop cred, and Bill Paxton/William Sadler grounded it into the 90s action genre. What should have been all things to the guy movie audience of the day sadly disappeared into obscurity. Thankfully, Shout! Factory specializes in rescuing unfairly forgotten movies for Blu-ray glory and they’ve just turned their attention to Trespass.
As is the Walter Hill way, Trespass wastes no time setting the scene. Within a manner of minutes we’re introduced to both Ice T and Ice Cube’s heartless gangsters as well as Bill Paxton and William Sadler’s burned out firemen who learn there is treasure buried in an abandoned building. Both intros happen in brief action scenes and the flick rarely slows down for a second from there. With dollar signs in their greedy eyes Paxton/Sadler decide to seek out the hidden gold without telling a soul (We can tell by all the denim and flannel they wear that they are working class heroes in need of cash. It was the 90s). So they go to a creepy old abandoned factory space and find it. Unfortunately, those rusted buildings are the same place where Ice T and Ice Cube do business. They show up for a routine gang murder and unfortunately Paxton/Sadler find themselves unwitting witnesses to the crime. That leads to a stand off and once the gold is on the table, it also quickly turns into a greed parable.
Trespass is a relentless thriller that constantly cranks tension with no time wasted. Yet, with Walter Hill behind the camera and the Bobs on story, characterization and themes are never sacrificed for the sake of momentum. Every character is carefully set up and explored in minimal screentime. Action and suspense drive the storytelling at all times, with subtext and personality weaved into each set piece. It all adds up. The Sierra Madre greed parable for some of the darkest aspects of human nature comes across clearly without ever feeling heavy handed in way that detracts from the genre thrills. Hill shots with style and edits for maximum impact. Viewers are constantly on edge and when the action explodes, it’s always brutally satisfying.
The cast is also perfect. Paxton and Sadler are ideal as everymen pushed to the limit, while the script gently teases out their prejudices without being exploitative or overstated. Ice T’s cold businessman with a gun and Ice Cube trigger happy hardman are ideal antagonists just complicated enough to feel like developed characters rather than cartoon villains. The rest of the supporting players are all memorable character actors with grizzled faces and hardened personalities. No one comes off as a saint, but no one is irritatingly evil either. They all serve a purpose and they’re all questionable. Shove them all into a series of tense stand offs, shootouts, and stunts and you’ve got a thoughtfully mean little genre flick that doesn’t let audiences off the hook for a second.
Trespass is undeniably a movie of its time, but has become dated in wonderful ways. The decidedly 90s fashions and technology (plenty of old low-fi video footage makes the cut) just adds to the charm and this is the type “wrong place, wrong time” movie that could easily be solved with cell phones, so it only would have worked in that era (although Ice T does spot a big brick 90s cell phone as a symbol of his wealth that is damn hilarious now). The film also plays on racial tensions that were particularly high at the time. Part of the reason Trespass didn’t do well at the box office was because the release was delayed (until the Christmas season) because of the Rodney King riots. It certainly tapped into something then that made critics uncomfortable, but if anything that material plays better now. Trespass has aged brilliantly and feels like Walter Hill’s last truly great genre outing. The production assembled a perfect concoction of early 90s action power players and delivered something feels like a classic even though it was initially dismissed. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring it now. Trespass is long overdue for a revival, so join in now damnit!
As expected, Shout! have treated Trespass with class in it’s move to HD. The transfer is gorgeous, bursting with gritty detail and depth. Colors are relatively subdued due to the claustrophobic and shadowy location, but that just serves to make the explosions and brief daylight sequences explode off the screen even harder. The lossless soundtrack hasn’t been remixed for surround sound, but in a way that just adds to Walter Hill’s direct and dirty aesthetic. The audio track certainly pounds out through the central speaks with raw intensity and crystal clarity. That’ll do.
The special feature section is mostly limited to interviews, but thankfully they are all quite good (even though Walter Hill’s absence is notable and disappointing). The best interview is likely a 13-minute chat with co-writer Bob Gale who admits he and Zemeckis wrote the script in the late 70s, influenced by Deliverance, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, and blacksploitation. They couldn’t get the movie made at the time, but when the urban action genre kicked off in the early 90s with New Jack City, there was renewed interest and Walter Hill jumped on it. Producer Neil Canton fills in some blanks on how Walter Hill got his hands on the script in his own 13-minute interview. He laughs about how easy it was to pull the movie together since everyone wanted to be involved (especially Ice T and Ice Cube who were huge fans of The Warriors and excited to work with Hill). Both discuss the challenges of getting the film released after the LA riots, but seem pleased that the movie finally got a cult audience all these years later.
William Sadler pops up for his own 12-minute interview next, admitting that he was hired after making friends with Walter Hill on an episode of Tales From The Crypt. He has a number of hilarious production anecdotes, including a great one about accidentally putting Bill Paxton in the hospital during a fight scene and then getting a knee to the nuts in a later fight scene as revenge. Next stunt coordinator and weapons expert Mike Tristan pop up for their own interviews about the action of Trespass and while both have a few interesting tidbits, they don’t add much in brief 6-minute interviews (although Mike Tristan’s interview is worth a look only for a peak at his somewhat terrifying weapon collection).
Finally a few vintage special features pop up including some fairly pointless deleted scenes, a brief vintage EPK featurette, and best of all a old music video for a tie in track from Ice T and Ice Cube that is hilarious for it’s 90s hip-hop excess and sheer volume of explosions. Overall, it’s a nice selection of extras for an underrated action flick that deserves it. Sure, it would have been nice to hear some memories from Walter Hill, but hey! You can’t have everything and we did get a damn fine Blu-ray release of Trespass from Shout! Factory. That’s kind of a miracle. I’ll take it.