American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Not nearly enough movies begin with treasure maps. If I were an actor, I'd demand them in my movies, just so I could enjoy that delicious opening scene where my eyes grow wide and my jaw drops open, and I look at the crumbling parchment while the director shines light up into my face like reflected gold.
There is a scene something like that at the outset of "Trespass," and although the movie doesn't quite live up to it, few movies can. There is something powerful and elemental in the appeal of gold, especially somebody else's buried treasure, and it plugs holes in the plot that no base metal could possibly cover. In "Trespass," for example, why would two firemen from Arkansas remain inside an abandoned factory in East St. Louis, surrounded by violent gang members, faced with death by bullet or fire, when rescue is there for the asking? One word: Gold.
Gold! The firemen find the map in the burning apartment of an old man, who confesses he stole it years ago from a Greek Orthodox Church. We aren't talking about a chalice and a crucifix here. This was a visiting display of priceless treasures from the old country, and the map shows where the old guy hid it in the factory.
Bill Paxton and William Sadler play the two firemen, Paxton the nice guy and the Sadler the psychopath (he was Death in "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey"). Inside the factory, they find the gold easily enough, as well as a local homeless man (Art Evans) who they tie to a chair until they decide they need him. Meanwhile, nearby, a street gang performs an execution, which one of the firemen accidentally witnesses.