Jessica Alba as Parker in "Trigger Warning" on Netflix.

Jessica Alba as Parker in "Trigger Warning" on Netflix. Credit: Ursula Coyote/Netflix/Ursula Coyote/Netflix

MOVIE "Trigger Warning"

WHERE Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Netflix action movie “Trigger Warning” stars Jessica Alba as Parker, a Special Forces officer who comes home to small town USA after her father dies in a mine collapse. She's told it was a suicide.

But our hero uses every bit of her training to recognize that something nefarious happened here. She sets her sights on Elvis (Jake Weary), the malevolent brother of her ex-boyfriend, the town sheriff Jesse (Mark Webber), who is also the son of Sen. Ezekiel Swann (the scenery chewing Anthony Michael Hall).

Parker's not wrong about Elvis. Everything's tied into his gig selling stolen military weapons to some bad people, including a terrorist named Ghost.

Questions remain either unanswered or fuzzily addressed, including why Parker's dad, a bar owner, enjoyed spending time in a mine to begin with.

MY SAY Lots of action movies recycle the stock plot being used once again in “Trigger Warning.” And they'll keep doing so, most likely, for as long as these movies keep being made.

But there's a way to bring some degree of freshness or spontaneity to this extraordinarily tired story template. One doesn't even need to have seen, say, “John Wick,” to recognize this.

Success in this area requires style, flair, action scenes that pop, crisp pacing, performances that transcend the formulaic to give us something engaging and relatable.

“Trigger Warning” has none of this.

It's so generic, so one-note, so obvious, such a play for a specific fragment of the Netflix viewing audience, that it leaves you feeling sad more than anything.

For one thing, it's impossibly murky: plot developments make little sense and are poorly explained. Exposition pours forth in clipped, rushed dialogue. You practically need a guide to keep it all straight. 

When the screenplay tries to stretch a bit, it goes in a really unfortunate direction. 

“There's some kind of poetry or something in the fact that he was swallowed up in his favorite place,” Alba's Parker says of her late father. “He loved that damn cave.”

Poetry, indeed.

The action scenes look like mud and unfold in such a hurry that they're forgotten the instant they've ended.

The woes continue with the performances: Alba plays up the intensity to such an extent that acting transforms into mugging. Wielding knives and machetes and making over-the-top, angry faces, she ensures that the character cannot be taken seriously. The supporting actors fare no better. Hall's sneering, conniving senator is a particular lowlight.

None of this should be considered a referendum on the talents of the filmmaker, Mouly Surya, or these actors. Or anyone else involved.

In a different context, these same people might very well have made something decent or even worthwhile.

“Trigger Warning” is, more than anything, a reflection of the sad realities of the movie business in 2024, when quality often matters far less than the demands of the streaming algorithm.

BOTTOM LINE Think of just about any way to spend a couple hours and it's better than this.

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