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Jessica Alba in Netflix Action Thriller

Jessica Alba in Netflix Action Thriller

Jessica Alba’s new starring vehicle boasts plenty of action movie credentials. The star, making her first feature film appearance in five years after guiding her business venture The Honest Company to a billion dollar-plus valuation, has previously displayed her skills in such film and television projects as Dark Angel and the Fantastic Four and Sin City franchises. Production company Thunder Road boasts the John Wick and Sicario movies among its credits. And its trio of screenwriters are responsible for such efforts as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, A History of Violence and HBO’s Westworld.

More impressively, the film features many women among its creative team, including Indonesian director Mouly Surya (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts), making her English-language debut, and director of photography Zoe White (The Handmaid’s Tale). Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts to deliver a femme-driven actioner revolving around a central character who comes across like a female Rambo, Trigger Warning, premiering on Netflix, proves distressingly familiar.

Trigger Warning

The Bottom Line

Familiar action movie tropes, with a femme twist.

Release date: Friday, June 21
Cast: Jessica Alba, Mark Webber, Tone Bell, Jake Weary, Gabriel Basso, Anthony Michael Hall, Kaiwi Lyman, Hari Dhillon
Director: Mouly Surya
Screenwriters: John Brancato, Josh Olson, Halley Gross

1 hour 46 minutes

The badass bona fides of Alba’s character Parker, a Special Forces commando, are immediately established in the opening scene in which she’s seen effortlessly dispatching several terrorist types in the desert. She’s also shown to be honorable, demonstrated by her angry reaction when one of her fellow soldiers takes it upon himself to start executing the prisoners and she violently puts him in his place.

Not long after, she’s informed that her father has been killed in a mine cave-in, prompting her return to her desert hometown with the symbolically less-than-subtle name of Creation. Not surprisingly, trouble follows her there, as she’s barely back in town a day when she single-handedly foils a robbery by subduing three bad guys, one of whom is brandishing an automatic weapon. She’s clearly an expert fighter not only with guns, but also in hand-to-hand combat, with knives, and, as later prominently showcased, machetes.

If this weren’t an action film, Parker would be allowed to grieve for her father, accept her friends’ condolences and presumably return to active duty. No such luck. She comes to suspect that the death was no accident, suicide, or, as her former boyfriend-turned sheriff Jesse (Mark Webber, Green Room) suggests, a result of encroaching dementia.

Her suspicions turn out to be correct, as she uncovers a criminal scheme to use the mine to steal weapons from a nearby military depot. Prominently figuring in the scheme is Jesse’s father (former teen star Anthony Michael Hall, who’s aged into his villainous looks), a corrupt senator — of a conservative bent, natch — and Jesse’s volatile brother Elvis (Jake Weary).

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For support, Parker enlists the help of her covert ops colleague Spider (stand-up comedian/actor Tone Bell), an expert computer hacker, and Mike (Gabriel Basso), a local drug dealer who’s like a younger brother to her.

The by-the-numbers storyline unfolds exactly as you’d expect, despite the trio of screenwriters’ attempts to lend some quirkiness to the proceedings with such moments as the senator telling Parker that his great-grandfather was Native American. “It’s where I get my lactose intolerance from,” he snidely points out.

Mostly, it’s an excuse for Alba to display her impressive physical fitness in a series of intense fight scenes, expertly choreographed in the sort of manner that allows you to see bodies in motion rather than mere flying limbs in frenzied jump cuts.

Director Surya reveals an assured command of the form, delivering enough satisfying bone-crushing and knife-wielding sequences to satisfy undemanding, action-craving viewers looking for mindless distraction on a weekend night. Needless to say, by the time Parker asks one of her female friends, “You wouldn’t by any chance have a bunch of guns lying around somewhere, would you?” all hell breaks loose.

Unfortunately, Alba, although more than competent, doesn’t quite have the full-bore charisma to make her character particularly interesting, or, as Netflix presumably hopes, the catalyst for a new action franchise. By the time the generically titled Trigger Warning reaches its predictable conclusion, you’ll be hankering to see what the streamer’s all-knowing algorithms have in store for you next.  

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