*/**** Image D Sound D+
starring Dolph Lundgren, Gina Bellman, George Jenesky, Christopher Heyerdahl
screenplay by Sergio Altieri
directed by Russell Mulcahy
by Walter Chaw There was a time, 'round about the cheap thrills of Razorback, that I thought director Russell Mulcahy had a future as an action director. Seventeen years later, the Aussie has proven me wrong by peaking with the intentionally campy The Shadow and the unintentionally campy Highlander. And while Silent Trigger isn't the worst of Mulcahy's missteps (Highlander II: The Quickening has a hammerlock on several "worst" titles), it's not for lack of trying. Still, I can't completely dislike both Dolph Lundgren and Mulcahy's latest direct-to-video disaster because I feel as though watching it has taught me a few things.
It's taught me that even a boondoggle like Assassins can inspire a non-pornographic knock-off, that when a helicopter pilot gets shot in the head his helicopter will smoke, and that if digital matte technology looks bad enough, it starts to resemble rotoscope animation. I learned that ten minutes of fairly well-executed and bloody violence will earn the worst of films a star from me, that ridiculous sex scenes become cosily surreal when intercut with war scenes, and that I wasn't completely wrong about Mulcahy way back when--the man has something of an innate flair with the camera. It's just a shame that his latest assignments have mainly been to zoom in on Lundgren or Jason Scott Lee's muscles while they operate some kind of pumping device. It's homoerotoriffic.
Waxman (Lundgren) is a master assassin for shadow organization The Agency and Clegg (Gina Bellman) is his "spotter" ("There he is, shoot him"). Naturally, Waxman develops morals about his occupation (see also: The Killer), and when a big hit staged in the same decrepit church as the one in Assassins goes awry...well, nothing. We flash forward an unspecified number of years to another assignment that begins with Clegg infiltrating a painting of a building under construction and teaming up again with Waxman. For a little manufactured tension, a couple of ridiculous security guards (George Jenesky and Christopher Heyerdahl, who somehow ends up walking around with a toilet for ten fun-filled minutes) stalk the pair as they wait for their target.
The film utilizes a few pointless flashbacks (which do include a nice throat-slashing and the execution of some Russian peasants), too, interspersed with a huge amount of dead air in which Lundgren again tries to demonstrate range. The winner of the Fulbright Scholarship to MIT in 1983, Lundgren would have better luck convincing of his brilliance if he'd stop agreeing to be in awful movies just because they agree to include a stultifying monologue for him to sombrely butcher.
Silent Trigger is so slipshod and poorly written that it's actually vaguely fun to watch. Consider this beauty:
Clegg: I heard a noise.
Waxman: It's the wind, I learned about the wind.
Clegg: In the war?
It's a collection of asinine moments that rely on happenstance and convenience--a film that desperately hopes you believe it's possible to hide behind a chain-link fence when someone is hunting you, and that the same grating will later shield you from automatic rifle fire. Lundgren is easily the best actor in the cast (easily), a statement as unlikely as it is astonishing, but no less awe-inspiring than the fact that underneath Clegg's fatigues, she's sporting a lacy black Victoria's Secret number. Silent Trigger is a bland bit of cheapo bullroar that seeks to capitalize on the six people in the world with some excitement left for the next Lundgren miscue; despite the few minutes where the squib technicians go nuts, and though it's occasionally hilarious, it's not funny enough to dissuade you from gnawing off your foot in a noble though misguided desire to escape.
Fox DVD's presentation of Silent Trigger is pretty difficult to judge. The source was shot on a surprisingly large (yet fairly modest by comparison to today's blockbusters) ten million dollar budget that simply cannot accommodate the special effects shots and, accordingly, the film looks astonishingly bad. Between this and his movie Tales of The Mummy, Mulcahy has proven beyond all doubt that he has no aptitude when it comes to incorporating CGI work. Though the DVD is panned and scanned from an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, I can't imagine what might have been lost and likewise can't imagine that the film could be aided by there actually being more of it to look at. (Still, a dispiriting new trend from the big studios. -Ed.) The film has been mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the source is so flat that the mix is more loud than distinct. In other words, the movie is technically and artistically garbage. The DVD features a perfunctory cast and crew biography. Originally published: January 3, 2002.