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‘Trespass’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 25, 1992

"Trespass," the new Walter Hill action thriller starring Ice T and Ice Cube, is an example of what Hollywood calls "counter-programming"; it's a film that runs against the grain of the season. In this case, though, counter-programming has an additional meaning: It would be counter to your best interests to see it.

Just how is it against the grain of the season? It's mindlessly violent, profane and insultingly racist. It's also relentless, repetitious and tiresome, and leaves us feeling that a once-great director has run out of ammunition.

Working from a shallow script by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Hill sets up a black-against-white scenario that has two Arkansas firemen (Bill Paxton and William Sadler) travel to the slums of East St. Louis in search of a cache of priceless Greek artifacts that, years ago, had been stolen and hidden in a now-abandoned building.

The plan goes haywire, though, when these two hapless treasure-hunters accidentally witness the murder of a drug dealer and, in the aftermath, find themselves trapped in the building with a fortune in gold and no way out.

It's a Mexican standoff; the gangsters have the firepower and the hicks have the gold and a hostage, Lucky (the baby-faced young actor De'Voreaux White), who's a junkie and the brother of the neighborhood's crime boss, King James (Ice T). There's also a squatter (Art Evans), who has been living in poverty directly underneath this mountain of loot, and who also becomes the firemen's prisoner.

That's the set-up, but even before it's in place the movie has lost our interest by completely failing to bring anything new to the genre. What we're given, then, is a stale and routinely numbing exercise in SWAT-team cinema -- men, guns, gold, blood and death.

Hill and his collaborators may have convinced themselves that they're dealing in myth, in primal Y-chromosone stuff. But only a hairbreadth separates myth and formula, and "Trespass" is on the wrong side of the line. The only myth debunked here is the one that has grown up around Hill's talent.

"Trepass" is rated R for language and violence.

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