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"Trigger Warning" 4K Review

Serving a sub-sub-sub-genre no one specifically asked for - action movies starring hot middle-aged Latina actresses - Netflix has come through with a pair of J.Lo-led entries within the past year (the terrible The Mother and the screamingly mediocre Atlas) and now the unexpected Trigger Warning (lame title with no relationship to anything) starring Jessica Alba in her first movie in five years and frankly her first since 2014's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For that anyone may've seen other than possible Mechanic: Resurrection, which I haven't even though I own it on 4K digital. Presumably because her kids are 6 to 16 years old and her suburban living company has made her very wealthy, she's decided to return to acting as a 43-year-old action heroine. Alrighty then.

Alba stars as Parker (no last name), a Special Forces commando (don't laugh) who we're introduced to in Syria in the middle of a chase which ends up in a morally gray area. She then gets a call from Sheriff Jesse (Mark Webber), her high school boyfriend, informing her that her also surnameless father, Harry (Alejandro De Hoyos), had died in a mine cave-in. So she returns home to Creation, No State Named to discover her father's death may not have been an accident.

 Harry lived in a mining building which was converted into a bar, so she mourns by walking around drinking straight out of liquor bottles. The bar's manager, Mike (Gabriel Basso), arrives and they hang out at another bar to drink and as they leave she notices a SUV with an assault rifle laying in plain sight in the back. She decides to follow the guys and witnesses them going to rob a hardware store. (In the middle of the night?) Conveniently, the back loading door is partially open (why?) and she's able to beat up all the robbers with her commando skills.

 The actual plot gets rolling when she discovers Elvis Swann (Jake Weary) is selling stolen military arms from a neighboring arms depot (convenient) and setting up a deal with a notorious domestic terrorist. It doesn't help that Elvis' daddy is Senator Ezekiel Swann (Anthony Michael Hall) who may as well have been named Baddie Whiteguy and given a Snidely Whiplash mustache. This puts Sheriff Jesse in the middle because he is also a Swann - a detail the script doesn't make clear early enough - and may be in on covering up Harry's death while he hooks up with Parker. (Awkward.) This leads to vengeance, death, and action.

As with every so-so movie the problems begin with the script which is maddeningly generic potboiler revenge thriller stuff. Writers John Brancato (co-writer of The Game, Terminator 3, Terminator Salvation), Josh Olson (A History of Violence), and Halley Gross (The Last of Us Part II videogame, ruh-roh) have decent pedigrees, but as with the indistinguishable from a ChatGPT product script for The Mother (despite Oscar-nominated writers there), there is nothing unique or distinctive here. There's something about Netflix movies which seems to homogenize screenplays into the dumbest common denominator.

Why don't Parker and Henry have last names and why name her Parker? What state is this? Is Swann a state or national Senator? (It's more implied Congress, but we can't be sure.) What happened to her mother who is only seen in a photo? Does she have no other family? Why is this bar in the middle of nowhere? How did the mine's tunnels happen to run all the way to the arms depot and have an access hatch into a container which allows for the thefts by Elvis's crew without the Army noticing? Why is her father's body laying out in the morgue instead of in a freezer? What was the back door of the hardware store open? Is there only one other deputy in the Sheriff's department and he's cool with what the Swanns are doing? This goes on and on because this is a TV movie-level script.

 Indonesian director Mouly Surya makes her English-language debut here and while she's lauded for her work in her homeland, there's nothing distinctive about the storytelling here, but the action is competently staged.

Which leaves Alba, who is actually pretty good here. For the bulk of her career as a starlet she's never been much in the talent department to go with her looks, but she apparently got some acting training in her 30s because her turn as Nancy Callahan in Sin City 2 was a night and day improvement over her performance in the first one. She also played the villain in the unseen Hallie Steinfeld vehicle Barely Lethal which was better than the material required. She's unlikely to suddenly become Academy bait, but she's respectable.

She struggles with the weak script to give her cardboard cutout character some depth, but is convincing in the action scenes. It's become a trope about how the tiny girlboss women kick the asses of big men who are physically larger and stronger, but the action choreography addresses this by showing her constantly being thrown around - she's 5'7" - but using jujitsu moves and improvised weapons and blades to even the odds. But she's not invincible: When she's badly beaten she passes out for three days and when shot in the arm, she doesn't use it, down to just one arm to fight with. She's bruised and battered like Charlize Theron was in Atomic Blonde's centerpiece stairway fight.

Despite the bad script and questionable direction which decided making all the guys look the same (short hair, beards) so sometimes we're confused as who's who other than her Army sidekick Spider (Tone Bell), who's black, Trigger Warning (seriously, what is that name supposed to mean) is a entertaining enough diversion that you're already paying for on Netflix, so it's not a total waste of time to watch.

As for the 4K Dolby Vision and Atmos presentation, with a few points where there are some bright highlights, there's nothing particularly demo worthy about the film's look and sound. If you're not shelling out for the top tier, you're not missing too much.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Netflix.


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