Trigger Warning – Jessica Alba’s Knife-Wielding Saga is a Lesson in Boredom

MOVIE REVIEW – According to Merriam-Webster, a “trigger warning” is a statement cautioning that the content may be disturbing or upsetting. Why Netflix chose this term for a thriller where Jessica Alba spends 95% of her time wielding a knife is a mystery. (The last time I sliced salami with a knife, it didn’t have a trigger, and this isn’t Final Fantasy VIII.) But rest assured, there is nothing disturbing or upsetting in this movie. Boring parts? Now that’s another story. Trigger Warning is unfortunately a masterclass in tedium.


One of the great advantages of the streaming era is the plethora of low-to-mid budget B-action movies, some of which turn out to be quite entertaining. (Extraction fans, this is your time!) There’s nothing better than when action madness is elevated by creativity and determination rather than budget. Jessica Alba’s longtime supporter, director Robert Rodriguez, who cast her in six of his films, knew this well. However, the flip side is that films that fail to capture this spark end up on the “disposable content” heap, just waiting for someone to stumble upon them on Netflix when there’s nothing better to do.

This brings us to Trigger Warning, a movie that seemed promising at first glance. Produced by Thunder Road Films, the same company that gave us the John Wick series and this year’s excellent Monkey Man. Directed by Indonesian filmmaker Mouly Surya (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts), making her first foray into this genre, the film unfortunately fails to deliver, and Trigger Warning is lucky if viewers make it through the movie without switching to something else. Will it put Alba back at the forefront of action films as Charlize Theron has done over the past decade? That’s hard to believe.





After taking over a small-town bar from her late grandfather, a former soldier discovers the establishment is actually a hub for illegal activities. As she tries to clean up the place, she gets entangled in dangerous confrontations with the local mafia, forcing her to use her military training to fight for justice.

In Trigger Warning, Alba plays Parker, presumably a CIA agent, mostly fighting anti-American forces across the globe. The film vaguely hints at her job description. One character describes it as “killing terrorists and spying,” while she simply calls it “mischief.” The opening scene showcases Parker as a real badass when needed. But she’s called home when her father suddenly dies in a mining accident. Initially believing it to be an accident, despite the local sheriff and old friend Jesse (Mark Webber) suspecting otherwise, she soon realizes that neither is true and that her father may have been murdered over an arms deal involving Jesse’s irritating redneck brother Elvis (Jake Weary) and their slimy politician father (Anthony Michael Hall). Parker tears through the town to uncover the truth and take down anyone responsible for her beloved “Daddy’s” death. Incidentally, we could play a drinking game where we take a shot every time Alba says “Daddy,” but we’d be dead by the 45-minute mark. So, I don’t recommend it.



Lack of Setting and Uninspired Characters


Here’s where the problems start. Firstly, the “town” in Trigger Warning is practically nonexistent for the viewer. There’s a mine, a bar that “Daddy” owned, a couple of houses, and maybe eight to ten people in total. The movie is supposedly set in New Mexico, but nothing captures the essence of the location. The characters are also dreadfully dull. Alba fails to make her character interesting enough to be an engaging action heroine. Jesse returns to Parker’s bed at one point, but there is zero chemistry between Alba and Webber. There’s another bearded guy whom I kept confusing with Jesse for the first 45 minutes. Hall barely has a role, constantly babbling about “freedom, family, and faith,” and pondering how to pronounce “Latinx.” The film tries to satirize some racist, conservative politicians but misses the mark. Comedian Tone Bell plays Spider, Parker’s hacker sidekick, and he is at least somewhat funny. Unfortunately, he only appears in a few scenes at the beginning and end of the film.



Full of Knives, Yet Dull


Now let’s talk about the action sequences – the heart and soul of a film like this. Sadly, they are no better than the rest of Trigger Warning. It feels like Alba spent just a couple of weeks in knife training, as the fights lack creativity and are entirely lifeless. Most of the work is done by the generic “knife slashing” sound effects that the sound team annoyingly overused. There are a few moments that could have been promising, like when Parker uses a broom and hedge clippers as weapons or fights a gangster on a balcony in a burning bar with flames licking at the first floor. These cool bits, however, last only a few seconds, not minutes. Nothing else manages to get the viewer’s pulse racing, despite the bombastic soundtrack constantly suggesting something epic is happening.

At one point near the end, Alba searches for weapons and gazes admiringly at a machete. She picks it up and twirls it in the sunset. This should be a “let’s do this” moment. But in Trigger Warning, Alba has nowhere to go – no memorable battles, no thrilling fights to win. Ultimately, it’s just another disposable action flick, carelessly thrown onto the streaming service to sit among the rest. Some of these movies can be great fun (even if they are “guilty pleasures”). But Trigger Warning? Not really. For a film with so much knife-wielding, what we see on screen needed to be much, much sharper.

-Gergely Herpai “BadSector”-



Trigger Warning

Direction - 2.6
Actors - 2.8
Story - 1.6
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 5.6
Ambience - 2.5



Trigger Warning, starring Jessica Alba, tells the story of a revenge mission that starts from a small-town bar. Unfortunately, the film fails to stand out due to uninteresting characters, weak settings, and dull action scenes. Alba does her best to breathe life into her role, but the movie ultimately ends up as just another disposable action film that doesn’t leave a lasting impression. If you’re looking for an exciting film, you might want to click on something else on Netflix.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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