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DHS- Trespass (1992) poster

Trespass is a 1992 Action-Crime-Thriller movie directed by Walter Hill, starring Bill Paxton, Ice Cube, Ice-T, and William Sadler. Paxton and Sadler star as two firemen who decide to search an abandoned building for a hidden treasure but wind up being targeted by a street gang.

Trespass was written years earlier by a pre-Back to the Future Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.


Two Arkansas firemen, Vince (Bill Paxton) and Don (William Sadler), meet an hysterical old man in a burning building. The old man hands them a map, prays for forgiveness, then allows himself to be engulfed in flames. Outside the fire and away from everyone else, Don does a little research and finds out that the man was a thief who stole a large amount of gold valuables from a church and hid them in a building in East St. Louis. The two decide to drive there, thinking they can get there, get the gold, and get back in one day.

While looking around in the abandoned building, they are spotted by a gang, led by King James (Ice-T), who is there to execute an enemy. Vince and Don witness the murder, but give themselves away and only manage to force a stalemate when they grab Lucky (De'voreaux White), King James' half-brother. Barricading themselves behind a door, they continue trying to find where the gold at. Adding to their troubles is an old homeless man, Bradlee (Art Evans), who had stumbled in on them while they were trying to find the gold.

King James eventually calls in some reinforcements. While doing some reconnaissance, Raymond (Bruce A. Young), the man who supplies guns to King James, finds Don and Vince's car and the news of the gold, and figures out why "two white boys" would be in their neighborhood. Raymond manipulates Savon (Ice Cube), one of James' men (who would rather just kill Don and Vince than follow James' approach of trying to talk to them) into shooting at Don and Vince, which eventually leads to Lucky's being shot himself. (Savon: "I guess he wasn't too lucky, huh?") King James is now furious and runs after Don and Vince, who have now found the stash of gold (having determined the map was drawn with the intention of looking UP at the ceiling, instead of down at the floor) and are trying to get out with it while avoiding King James.

The gold changes hands several times, once with Savon, then again with Bradlee, while people are shooting everywhere. Eventually, Don and King James meet and end up killing each other. Savon and Raymond also kill each other. The building they were in gets burned to the ground. Vince encounters Bradlee outside the building, and Bradlee tells Vince to run. (Vince cannot drive away, since Raymond ripped out the wires in his engine, gave him four flat tires, and cut the line to his CB radio). Once Vince is out of the way, Bradlee picks up the haul of gold that was left behind and walks away, laughing.


  • Bill Paxton as Vince Gillian
  • Ice-T as King James
  • William Sadler as Don Perry
  • Ice Cube as Savon
  • Art Evans as Bradlee
  • De'voreaux White as Lucky
  • Bruce A. Young as Raymond
  • Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Jr. as Cletus


The script was originally called The Looters and Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale wrote it in the 1970s. Years later, Neil Canton showed it to director Walter Hill. Hill says he liked the script "enormously":

I was quite surprised because it’s certainly not the kind of story that Zemeckis and Gale identified with... but I thought it was enormously primal, elemental, brutal, and a great confrontation. It was totally dependent upon the narrative circumstances to reveal character and of course it took place in a time compression—both are things I’m very fond of.[1]

Hill was a writer and tended to work on the scripts of all his films:

I don’t think the script changed all that much, to tell you the truth. Although there’s certainly no scene in the movie that wasn’t rewritten many times. The script evolved because of certain location problems and we worked out a new ending. The only thing that is significantly different from the script is that the film gives a lot more screen time to King James and his gang and the ending is quite a bit different from the original.[1]

The film was mostly shot at the vacant Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill, formerly an operating mill complex located in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. Construction of the complex began in 1881 on the south side of the Georgia Railroad line, east of downtown Atlanta, on the site of the Atlanta Rolling Mill. The site now includes separate phases of multi-family dwellings including for-rent apartments (called The Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts) and for-sale condominiums (The Stacks). [2]

"I wanted to make a down-and-dirty thriller," said Hill. "I wanted to shoot it in a fast, hard style. I wanted to work off the cuff, making it all happen right there."[1]

Hill says Ice T and Ice Cube were hired on their strength as actors and were allowed input into the dialogue. "They certainly had a lot of input in terms of, “What my guy would say is this. He wouldn’t say it that way; he’d say it this way.” And I gave them a very free reign on all that."[1]

Hill says the film was not intentionally political.

"It is an adventure story that harkens back to a Jack London tradition. And what makes that striking, is that it is so much more real than what we presume action adventure movies to be—what they have evolved to be in the last 20 years. When I was a kid, they were all about very real people in tough circumstances, now the action movie is half science fiction movie. This movie is very much a throwback in that sense—with the permanently strained relations between blacks and whites and browns and orientals in our ghettos, our inner cities... But... just because the films intentions are not political, doesn’t mean it’s not political. Movies take on their own life. This is not a movie about racial confrontation in the sense that the confrontation had nothing to do with race... Inevitably, white and black attitudes spill into the movie because of the attempt to create some kind of social reality out of the situation."

Hill says the idea to have so much of the movie shot through video tape came as they were getting ready to shoot. He read an article in the Washington Post about street gangs who would film a lot of their own activities. Hill:

"I simply saw it as a visual opportunity to play a lot of the movie through a viewfinder. I thought it might get you inside the gang better... I wanted everything to be rough around the edge. We shot most of the movie hand held... I wanted it to be herky-jerky. We Dutched a lot of the angles, especially as the story unfolds because the story gets crazier and crazier. We went from a less elegant—the early parts of the movie, there are no hand helds at all—but as the story gets more nervous and crazy, we go more and more to a hand held thing until, finally, the end of the movie is all entirely hand held."


The film was meant to be released on 3 July but this date was delayed due to the 1992 Los Angeles riots; the film was retitled and a new marketing campaign devised.[3] The movie was also given a new ending after test screenings wherein black audiences expressed dissatisfaction with the end, when both Ice-T and Ice Cube died. "The message of the movie got lost in the gunfire", said Bob Gale.[4]


The movie gained mixed to positive reviews from critics.[5][6][7][8] As of November 12, 2014, Trespass holds a 68% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews.[9]

Box office[]

The film debuted poorly.[10] It went on to gross just $13.7 million in North America.Template:Cn

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Walter Hill" by Larry Gross Bomb Winter 1993 accessed 7 February 2015
  2. The Icemen Cometh: 'Gangster Rappers' on Set Gamerman, Amy. Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file) [New York, N.Y] 17 Dec 1991: A18.
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