The Wrong Side of Town in ’93: "Trespass"
Tom Jolliffe takes on a double bill of overlooked thrillers from 1993 with Trespass and Judgment Night…
1993 was an odd year for movies. Looking back, there wasn’t a big selection of instant classics that might immediately jump out at you for their potential longevity. Some of the more pop culture films of the year included True Romance, Jurassic Park and Falling Down, so it certainly wasn’t without its primo selections.
Furthermore, the year is kind of blessed with an array of genre films that were greeted somewhat apathetically but have since found more love. Demolition Man which almost seemed to perfectly predict cancel culture, has finally seen its tone and message find an audience. Likewise, Last Action Hero, dubbed a potentially career ending bomb for Schwarzenegger (and a constant figure of fun at his expense around the time) has since found a little more love for its quirky inconsistency, as well as the finer observations of Arnold’s CV that it was spoofing.
Indeed, there were two more overlooked films that year which were released to mediocre reviews and uninspiring box office. Walter Hill’s Trespass and Stephen Hopkins’ Judgment Night. Both feature protagonists who find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks and witnessing murders at the hands of local gangs. It becomes a battle to survive. So let’s take a look back at two great high concept films.
Two firefighters tackling a blaze unearth a key and a treasure map. The premise might make you think a National Treasure-esque adventure story might kick off, or that you’re watching an unofficial sequel to Goonies, but no. Our intrepid firefighters head off to an abandoned warehouse, just off a bad part of the town they’ve travelled to. In a derelict warehouse they begin their search, but matters are complicated by the discovery of a vagrant sleeping rough there, and then further by the arrival of a gang about to make a traitor in their ranks sleep with the fishes.
Trespass is a forgotten film in Walter Hill’s CV. It’s well after his peak, but shortly before a brief resurgence in Bruce Willis’ Last Man Standing. It has a few pinches of The Warriors (though not as much as the next film to be discussed ironically), but isn’t as action heavy as Hill’s usual fare. Bill Paxton and William Sadler make an excellent duo, and somewhat unexpected choice as leading men. They were more renowned as character actors and supporting parts than taking the lead. It’s a welcome move, although ultimately it probably impacted the box office. In fact you might call the ‘marquee names’ the two notorious rappers at the height of their musical notoriety. It’s an Ice double with Cube and T, both of whom were firmly establishing themselves as movie stars at the time. Cube was fresh off Boyz in the Hood and just prior to Friday. For T, this was sandwiched between New Jack City and the thoroughly underrated Surviving The Game which came the following year.
Once we get to the warehouse, the film sticks to that location. Vince (Paxton), despite giving into the greed of tracking the treasure, still retains a moral line. Don (Sadler) however, begins to descend slowly into darkness as his morality fades. He’s willing to go to greater and more extreme lengths to get away with the loot and he’s far more prepared for the conflict they find than Vince, who finds himself over his head. Hill expertly keeps the pace up and stages each set piece well. Each escape idea the boxed in duo have, inevitably fails, whilst the gang member hostage they have (brother of Ice T’s ‘King James’) is the only thing keeping them from a full onslaught.
Cube and T, along with a few recognisable faces like the late great Tiny Lister, make for an engaging band of villains. The film is ruthlessly simple in its approach, resting everything on the concept and the confined location. As expected with Hill, the ante is upped for a finale with the building turned to a blazing inferno and set to explode. Those who enjoy a relentless, escalating thriller, will find plenty to enjoy with Trespass, the kind of straight up stakes thriller we don’t see much of anymore.