Fade to Blackout

The Trigger Effect will knock your lights out

The black moviegoer from the opening recurs throughout the film. He seems to be intended as a symbol of the societal Other; the stranger we don't know and haven't tried to understand, and whom we can't quite believe exists for any other reason than to make us anxious.

What's amazing is that Koepp could make such a gripping and unpretentious little thriller, stuff it full of good, provocative observation, and still wrap it around such a silly subtext. In spite of all real-life evidence to the contrary, the film is perfectly comfortable with the notion that come the Big Blackout, it would fall at once to men to take care of business, and women would "revert" quickly into dependent little vixens. It's also clear that Annie's sexual avidity toward manliness isn't just a cave-girl angling toward whoever can best provide for her--she's genuinely turned on; it's what she by her nature prefers.

Much of this subtext's dominance arises simply from the erotic force of Shue's performance. After years of playing fresh-faced, forgettable ingenues, Shue received, rightly, the first major praise of her career for playing the passionate, ready-for-anything call girl in Leaving Las Vegas. Now she's like a high school girl who's learned what it takes to be popular, and she wastes no time getting all hot and bothered in The Trigger Effect--she's fondling herself through her bra before the film is 20 minutes along.

Though both MacLachlan and Mulroney are serviceable, the characters they're playing are--by design--generic. Apart from Michael Rooker, who is memorable as a scary stranger asking for a ride, Shue does the only vivid acting in the film. Her animal-in-helpless-heat act may be overplayed, may even be offensive, but without it The Trigger Effect would be too generic. She's the wild card the movie needs, even as she pushes it backwards down the retrograde.

The Trigger Effect:
Directed by David Koepp; with Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue, Dermot Mulroney, Bill Smitrovich, Michael Rooker, Philip Bruns and William Lucking. Rated

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