Zrigger Warning, sitting at second spot on Netflix Pakistan’s (and, according to reports, Netflix’s global) top 10 charts, takes you back to episodic action series from the 1980s. Actually, now that I think about it, I may have seen an episode or two like it on Knight Rider or The Fall Guy.

In the story, a woman returns to her hometown in New Mexico after her father passes away in a mining accident. As it turns out, the dusty, humid town — called Creation — lying in the middle of nowhere, is a hotbed for illegal arms sales, under the protection of the law.

Whoops! Was that a spoiler? Probably not with the way the story unravels.

Cliched with a capital “C” — actually, one should capitalise the entire word — the woman turns out to be a one-woman army, whose day job is with the army.

Parker — Jessica Alba, returning to the movies after a five-year hiatus after her Bad Boys spin-off television series, LA’s Finest — is a special forces commando who runs secret “shenanigans” (as she calls it) around the world.

Trigger Warning, starring Jessice Alba, is the kind of movie that is meant to fill slots on US TV networks as a low-budget, made-for-TV B-movie devoid of any imagination

The opening action sequence in the film sees her, and her crackshot commando team, in a high-octane pursuit by Syrians, in Syria. According to one of her cohorts, the commando team’s cover had been compromised, and since the details of their mission are never clarified, who’s to say who was the bad guy in the chase.

Still, as the stereotype goes, the men wearing scarfs over their faces, speaking in Arabic and carrying military-grade automatic weapons could be the villains, despite a commando’s unemotional assassination of their captors. Parker nearly kills her man-in-arms to stop the killing, because she is a better character (and the hero of the film, of course). They could have been assets, she exclaims to one of her friends, who helps her later in the film.

Trigger Warning gives Alba the right push to return her to her action roots (the actress had made her debut, way back in the day, in the action series Dark Angel created by James Cameron). The screenplay by John Brancato (Terminator Salvation), Josh Olson (A History of Violence) and Halley Gross (The Last of Us), gives Alba moments to show us that she can act. Those moments are, however, coupled with trimmable dialogues that feel forced and unrefined.

Indonesian director Mouly Surya — making her debut here — and her cinematographer Zoë White, use very clean anamorphic lenses to deliver a bland, unengaging, muddy look to the film (modern lenses lack certain “organic” characteristics). The colour-grade doesn’t help either.

Irrespective of Alba’s training for the role, most of Trigger Warning is dismissible (I’ll refrain from using the word “entertainment”). It is the kind of movie that is meant to fill slots on American television networks as a low-budget, made-for-TV B-movie that is devoid of any imagination, whose only purpose is to return a star back to the spotlight.

Streaming on Netflix, Trigger Warning is suitable for audiences of ages 18 and over. The film has excessive violence and no sexual situations

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 7th, 2024

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