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The Trigger Effect

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Trigger Effect

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue
Director: David Koepp
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 1996
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Dermot Mulroney, Richard T. Jones, Michael Rooker, Bill Smitrovich, William Lucking, Rick Worthy, Molly Morgan, Shishir Kurup, Richard Schiff

Review by MrBrown
1½ stars out of 4

The title of screenwriter David Koepp's directorial debut, The Trigger Effect, is meant to reflect how one event--in this case, a blackout--can trigger a chain of (largely unfavorable) events. The title actually better describes the execution of the film than its basic plot--one bad idea sets off a series of more bad ideas until the film becomes unsalvageable.

Writer-director Koepp establishes the scene rather well, setting up a promising psychodrama: the young married couple of Matt (Kyle MacLachlan) and Annie (Elisabeth Shue) find their life thrown off balance when a massive power outage paralyzes the city and Matt's best friend Joey (Dermot Mulroney) comes to stay in their home. Matt is a somewhat stuffy elitist who can reveal a more savage side when push comes to shove; Annie is a new mother with a checkered past as a "wild child"; and Joey is the slightly boorish, macho type. Having these three mercurial personalities stuck in a claustrophobic setting and reverting to more primal instincts is fertile fodder for a psychological thriller.

But all the promise is wiped away when the three (four including Matt and Annie's daughter) decide to leave town and make a long, hard journey through the desert and country to Annie's parents' house. Interesting plot strands (such as Joey's slight awakening of Annie's wild side) established in the house are abandoned for the conventional trappings of a road picture. And the characters start to act like only those in a movie would act in order to further the plot--for example, they decide to make an unnecessary stop for fuel, which lands them right next to the car of a mysterious stranger (Michael Rooker) who, of course, causes trouble. One bad, credibility-straining plot turn lead to another until the weak, cliched conclusion, one of those "things are back to normal but never will be the same again" endings.

It's ironic that the directorial debut of celebrated screenwriter Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible) would fall short in the writing department but show some life on the directorial end. While he cannot generate enough suspense and forward momentum to carry the movie through from beginning to end, he is able to create some suspenseful moments, such as scenes involving a prowler and a pharmacy break-in. Visually, Koepp tends to overdo blue (witness the fades to blue and more blue lighting than your average X-Files episode), but he at least makes the whole package visually interesting, and he coaxes decent performances from the stars, who have to overcome some rather shallow characterizations.

Ultimately, The Trigger Effect will become a victim of its own title--once word of mouth spreads on this unthrilling thriller, its minimal box office power will be shut off.

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