Trigger Warning Review – IGN

Netflix Movie “Trigger Warning” Review

Trigger Warning may sound like the title of 10 different comedians’ worst stand-up special, but it’s actually the modest combustion that results when three distinct but related types of action thrillers collide in one Netflix movie. It’s partly an airport-novel-style, Jack Reacher-y story about a military-trained badass taking on a nefarious conspiracy and a small army of unredeemable goons. (That’s the one where the title makes the second-most sense, after the bad stand-up.) It’s partly one of those later-career action movies where a recognizable star rebrands as a surprisingly spry kicker of terrorist ass. And most promisingly, it’s partly a townie noir about a woman returning to her sleepy hometown to investigate the suspicious death of her father. Jessica Alba plays all three roles; she’s reasonably convincing, but probably could have played any one of them even better if the movie wasn’t waffling between the other two.

Alba plays Parker, a Special Forces officer first seen posing as an aid worker to draw out some terrorists. To illustrate that she has a moral code, we see her stopping a colleague from killing unarmed men in cold blood; then, in a characteristically middle-of-the-road dodge, Trigger Warning has her objecting to this practice primarily because the men are “assets” who hadn’t yet been interrogated for information. (This is so you know she doesn’t want to coddle the bad guys by granting them human rights.) Parker heads to her rural hometown when she finds out that her father, proprietor of a local bar, has died. The local police, including her ex-boyfriend and the town’s current sheriff Jesse (Mark Webber) aren’t sure if it was an accident, or a possible suicide. Parker comes to suspect that it was neither. Could Senator Swann (Anthony Michael Hall), an authority figure played by a name actor, have something to do with it?

Tracing Parker’s Investigation in Trigger Warning

Strangely, no one seems especially fazed by the fact that Parker’s pops kept a literal man cave inside an old mining tunnel adjacent to his property; somehow, only the particular circumstances of his mine-collapse death raise anyone’s eyebrows. (Later, someone else appropriates his setup, watching movies via what looks like 16mm film projected on a rock wall, sans screen; this may be Netflix propaganda advocating against the theatrical experience.) It’s all just a convenient way for Parker to run afoul of local criminals while Trigger Warning collects bits and pieces of the first, good Rambo movie, Reacher, Road House, and the last, bad Rambo movie (among others).

Director Mouly Surya, an Indonesian filmmaker, makes her English-language directorial debut here, and you can see a genre artist’s sensibility crunch up against just-get-it-done Netflix expedience: There are plenty of nicely composed individual frames that use vibrant splashes of nocturnal neon, or linger a little longer than is strictly necessary, like a shot of the air visibly escaping from a tire against the night sky. Yet these images are often cut together so clumsily that the movie feels like it’s tripping over itself – especially early on, when awkward editing makes the actors sound oddly halting, with dead-air pauses in the dialogue. This smooths out as the focus narrows to Parker fighting her way through various goons; the noir-ish angle, the trickiest of Trigger Warning’s three subgenres, is understandably the first to go.

Final Thoughts on Trigger Warning

What remains is a serviceably unremarkable time-killer – the Netflix special, in other words (no, I’m not talking about the stand-up kind here, either). Alba has a no-nonsense athleticism that makes her a decent action hero, and it’s fun to see her dabble in a little bit of Jackie Chan-style prop-fighting in one scene, even if she and the choreographers aren’t wildly talented at it. Occasionally, there are nods toward her past as a tongue-in-cheek Robert Rodriguez heroine, silhouetting Alba as she practices wielding a machete (perfect for the star of, uh, Machete) and observing as she casually arranges her hair into battle braids.