(Air Date: Week Of 08/28/96)
"The Trigger Effect" is the odd bird sort of film, whose title punnily plays off the dual themes crammed into the story: Theme I, small actions can ripple and swell into unexpected effects-- remember the BBC series "Connections," about the twists of cause and effect behind technological advances? Well, this was supposedly the inspiration for "The Trigger Effect", which seems to show the theme in reverse -- call it "Disconnections." And now for Theme II: When the props of civilization disappear, men devolve into a primitive state of fighting to be Alpha Dog. Like they can't wait to get a gun, and pull the trigger.
Director /writer David Koepp, whose previous script-writing credits are for "Jurassic Park" and "Mission: Impossible," presents his agenda with a heavy hand, in that didactic way that never bodes well in a work of art. Still, the ideas are at least well-executed, and, oddly enough, the characters do have flesh, even if they are basically types.
So what happens is, the power goes out big-time, indefinitely, phones and all, and the delicate ecosystem of middle-class life in the 'burbs goes haywire. Our token yuppie couple, in the middle of a hopeless kitchen remodel, is pale and high-strung Matt, played by Kyle MacLachlan, and his once wild, but now suburbanized wife Annie, played by Elisabeth Shue. Their baby has a high fever, and without a phone to get a prescription refill from their doctor, the full-of-himself pharmacist refuses to give them medicine. A mood of public anarchy is growing as lines get longer, and provisions get shorter. Worried about his baby, and tired of feeling ineffectual, Matt steals the medicine right off the shelf under the pharmacist's nose. Annie says she's shocked, but her actions show that this turns her on. Enter their macho, blue-collar friend Joe, played by Dermot Mulroney, and next thing you know they're buying a rifle and using it to defend Matt's home against a young marauder, with deadly results.
At this point the movie has succeeded in creating a mood of everyday nightmare, and makes you think about how fragile our hold on civilization may actually be. But, with the ideas and themes out there, the film bogs down, dressed up and not sure where to go. In the end, there's a cathartic showdown that seems to inadvertently make the point that men with children are less likely to shoot guns. Who knows, could be true. But, personally, I don't like to be hammered over the head with ideas that take over the characters and plot, and that's where "The Trigger Effect" misses the mark.
Copyright 1996 Mary Weems
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