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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

THE TRIGGER EFFECT is a Hitchcockian thriller about everyone being reduced to their most basic instincts, the bottom of their Maslow triangle. Through a massive and long lasting power outage people revert to animal behavior. Much like TESTAMENT, this show presents a convincing tale of what could happen. After the ten state power outage this month, the show is especially topical.

THE TRIGGER EFFECT is written and directed by first time director David Koepps. His writing credits include MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, THE PAPER, and JURRASIC PARK so he is skilled with the art of tension. Here the show is a massive web of tension.

The film opens with two coyotes eating their kill. This is followed by a fast cut to a nearby power plant. Soon we cut again to a scene at a movie theater. As in SLACKER, the scene moves from person A to B and then B to C, etc. Each time there is an incident that almost happens and doesn't, but the writer serves notice that you can expect these characters back again.

Matthew (Kyle MacLachlan) and Annie (Elisabeth Shue) return home after getting cussed at in the theater. They are pretty shook up, but soon forget it as Annie starts turning Matthew on. Just when they are about to make love, baby Sarah cries out loudly. This great little scene ends as they immediately start a game of rock-paper-scissors to see who will have to go sit with Sarah.

Soon the power goes out. It is a hot and sticky night so this is a terrible inconvenience. They look outside, and the whole city is dark.

When they wake up, the power is still off, and their baby's ear infection has gotten much worse. She must get medicine, but the phones and the radio are out too.

Now the terror starts. The pharmacist will not give Matthew the medicine because the doctor is unreachable. Put yourself in Matthew's shoes. Imagine the horror of your baby getting sicker and sicker, and yet the drugs she needs are so close you can almost reach over the counter and touch them. It is at this point that the bounds of normal civilized behavior begin to get violated. This ordinary man getting caught in circumstances beyond his control is a classic Hitchcock theme.

Their high school friend Joe (Dermot Mulroney) comes by, and they begin to discuss what caused the outage and how bad the situation is. He gives out a lot of theories, many funny including "The Martians have landed. They want our women." Eventually he gets serious and says he has heard reports of massive looting and killing. He and Matthew go and buy a gun to protect themselves.

After a while this all becomes a lark, and they drive into town to see what is happening. I have friends that drove into Manhattan from New Jersey during a massive power outage in the late 70s so I know this is a normal reaction for some.

The second night finds the three of them together in the candlelight of Matthew and Annie's house. After too much wine, a romantic triangle begins to develop. The script is excellent throughout. A great mixture of tremendous tension followed by a little humor. After one fight, Anne tells them, "Boys, if you can't play nice, we're aren't going to have any more of these little sleepovers." At one point Matthew asks a cop, "Is it bad out there?" But the cop just replies, "Out where?"

The rest of the show has them coping with an ever more hostile environment. People revert back more and more to their animal ancestry. Every few minutes, the tension ratchets up some more.

This is not a show where suspension of disbelief is necessary. As presented, it is all plausible and is made even more so by some excellent pieces of acting by the cast. Shue (from LEAVING LAS VEGAS and ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING) and MacLachlan give fascinating performances. People in ordinary circumstances sometimes are forced to do things they would never consider otherwise.

Small parts of the script really hit home. None of the plastic works. Only cash is accepted. In the power outage this month we were in a toy store trying to buy something with my credit card when it was made inoperable without power. Moreover, without power no one could figure out the price nor would I have had exact change anyway.

The low and pervasive music by James Newton Howard serves as a Chinese water torture on the audience. Editor Jill Savitt knows just when to cut so that the audience stays on the edge of their seats. Many small scenes are excellent. One of my favorites is a big confrontation with guns that gets resolved amicably in a surprising way.

THE TRIGGER EFFECT runs 2:02. It is rated R. There is no sex or nudity, and generally the language is pretty mild. There is some violence, but nothing gory. I think the film would be fine for most kids ten and up, regardless of the rating. I recommend this thriller to you and award it ***.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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