‘Trespass’ or — The Treasure of The Sierra Goddamn M*%$#r Fuc%#*g Madre!
I wonder if they teach ‘Trespass’ (1992) in film school? The reason I ask is that I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie with such a brilliantly concise opening.
The film, directed by Walter Hill and written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, is about two firemen from Arkansas who, during a fire, come across a map leading them to hidden treasure buried in an abandoned building in East St. Louis. The only problem is that this territory is not abandoned but is the domain of two rival gangs, that rivalry now at breaking point after a brutal gangland killing.
‘Trespass’ sets all this up — the two gangs, the firemen, the map, the treasure, the quest — practically by the time the opening credits have finished, and they’re pretty short opening credits. Ten minutes in the film is fully up and running and just keeps on nicely cranking up from there.
I think this is what makes ‘Trespass’ work so effectively — the structure and pacing. Sure, Hill directs the hell of this one bringing macho-energy, differing shooting styles and a huge sense of fun to it all but he’s able to do this so surely because what he’s working with allows it. You can see why he was drawn to the project and you can almost imagine the light-bulb going on over his head as he thinks to himself — “I know exactly what I can do with this!”
And what does he do with it? He simply makes it as exciting, badass and confined as possible. Once the two fireman, Vince and Don (Bill Paxton and William Sadler), realise they’ve stumbled into a gang-war and are now targets themselves, they take a gang leader’s brother hostage and barricade themselves in a room. From then on it’s a typical Mexican standoff whilst trying not to crack under the pressure of anger, in-fighting or gold-fever. Oh yeah, the gold — kinda forgotten about that because of those gangsters.
And those gangsters are played by the ultimate hip-hop dream-team pairing of the two Ices, although being a prog-rock fan I always get them mixed up and can never remember their names but I think they’re called Vanilla Ice and Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. Either way, apparently it was a highly anticipated coming together of musical giants that was almost as cool and big a deal as when John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes got together and formed Asia. Or so I imagine.
And the two Ices do a pretty good job. Vanilla Ice is particularly badass. How badass? He’s so badass, such a mean muthafucka that he actually smashes the film to bits, and I mean he actually destroys the movie and we’re left briefly looking at a blank screen. Did he just smash the film we’re watching, and he’s IN, to death? That’s badass, man!
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown gets the funniest lines in the film though (and this is, at times, a very funny film). At one point William Sadler shouts out from the barricaded room that they have Ice Age 2’s brother tied-up across the door so anyone who attempts to burst in will rip his arms off. “Okay!” Ice Age 2 shouts back, “But just don’t do anything stupid in there!”
He also gets a great monologue direct to video-camera when he pretty much sums the film up saying — “None of this makes any fucking sense!” And he’s right as the film is totally silly… but he’s also wrong because the film makes perfect sense and is just too well constructed to dismiss so flippantly. Either way, it’s funny as hell.
Another aspect of ‘Trespass’ that needs mentioning is the swearing as this might be the sweariest film I’ve seen for ages. It’s the sort of movie for people who thought the language in ‘Midnight Run’ (1988) was too tame, although ‘Trespass’ doesn’t have any of the brilliantly lyrical and poetic tirades of profanity that ‘Midnight Run’ has but it sure beats it in terms of pure excess, if that’s your thing.
‘Trespass’ is great: it’s tense, exciting, violent, gripping, funny and has just the right amount of a rough edge to it that’s enhanced by a great Ry Cooder score (although I’d love to see it with John Zorn’s unused soundtrack running to it). It also has an excellent turn by Art Evans as the homeless Bradlee. In terms of acting he completely steals the show from under everybody else’s noses as the poor old guy who lives in this crumbling, decaying building that everyone has blundered into. Yet the bigger question is — is that all he gets away with? Watch and find out.