Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trespass

I've always felt that Walter Hill was one of the most underrated of film directors. Even in his heyday, when he created tough, memorable films like THE WARRIORS and THE LONG RIDERS, to say nothing of the box office smash 48 HRS., he was never given his proper due as a meticulous stylist of the action genre. Such a sure hand, so many interesting choices. Rarely for nuances but rather the movies were like great rock songs that burned from the first note. His films from 1975 through 1984 are his best, the most representative of his talent, from the bare knuckle brawling of HARD TIMES to the neon glitter of STREETS OF FIRE. In between was a forgotten sleeper called SOUTHERN COMFORT, a tale of National Guardsmen who learn the hard ways of Cajun country.

1992's TRESPASS has some similarities to that film.  Of foreigners attempting to navigate a wilderness while attempting to save their hides. Bill Paxton and William Sanderson play regular joe firemen named Vince and Don who nightly cry into their beers over their sad lots. But luck seems to turn when they happen upon a map that indicates that a cache of gold is hidden in an old church. Maybe they should've considered the foreshadowing that this map was given to them by a man they could not save in a burning house.

The gig seems cut and dry. The church is now abandoned, with only a squatter elderly drunk to be found. Then a group of thugs (lead by Ice-T playing a character named King James) shows up and wastes one of their enemies, an incident accidentally witnessed by Vince and Don.  Now marked for death themselves, our heroes kidnap King James' younger brother and take him hostage. Leverage.   Meanwhile, the treasure hunt continues. How long will it take the gang to figure out why the 2 luckless white guys are holding court?

As the story, unimpressively scripted by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, unfolds, the desperation mounts. The profanity and body count grows. Any potential for tension is eroded by the facts that:

1. Vince and Don are not too bright and all around dullards.
2. There are multiple unintentional laughs.
3. Ice-T, usually so entertaining, is disappointing here.
4. The subplot involving the camcorder (echoing the then recent events of the L.A. riots and Rodney King) is heavy handed.
5. The ending is telegraphed from early on in the film.

But Hill's punchy style is just right for TRESPASS. He knows how to stage action. His pace is brisk. If you seek undemanding action fare, this film will fit that bill.

There isn't a single female in the movie, which is just as well, as (as we've covered) the director rarely knows what to do with them anyway. TRESPASS has more than a passing similarity to TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, but, yeah, you know the rest. I also noted a few nods to the original 1976 version of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, a compact drama which would be a much better waste of your time.

But damned if TRESPASS wouldn't make a swell video game!