Trigger Warning review – Jessica Alba returns in solid Netflix action vehicle

Estimated read time 4 min read

We’ve not seen that much of Jessica Alba on screen of late, the once-hard-to-avoid star (between the years of 2007 and 2010, she was in 13 films) mostly stepping back from movies (between 2018 and 2024, she was in just two). She took time to focus on motherhood with three kids to care for as well as expanding her don’t-call-it-Goop eco-friendly brand The Honest Company, which at its peak was worth $1bn, a persuasive enough reason to put a pause on Hollywood for a while.

But after stepping down from her role as COO, she decided to launch her own production company, now taking on her first bona fide lead since 2016’s little-seen horror The Veil. It’s a smart choice of both genre and platform, a Netflix action movie that should be an easy win, her brand of 2000s fame making her a perfect fit for the same viewers who rush toward the streamer’s latest Adam Sandler and Jennifer Lopez offerings. It’s likely that Trigger Warning, launching on a rather dead weekend for new films at the cinema, will hit a sweet spot, tapping into Netflix’s undemanding action audience who have happily made hits from a string of duds.

Positioned as a franchise-starter, compared a little ambitiously to both Rambo and John Wick when announced back in 2016, it gives Alba the opportunity to go from zero to 100 in terms of screentime, cropping up in almost every scene, an opportunity she would be less likely to receive in a wide theatrical release at this stage. She plays Parker, a special forces commando called back to her small home town when her father dies, an apparent accident that may have been a suicide that she’s convinced was murder. There are some shady types circling her, from Anthony Michael Hall’s ultra-conservative, anti-woke senator to his trigger-happy son to some local criminals engaging in behaviour she’s incapable of ignoring.

We’re in basic 80s action movie territory, quite obviously hinted at in one scene when a character watches and comments on a Chuck Norris movie, a barebones formula regurgitation that somehow needed three writers to stitch it together (John Brancato, Josh Olson and Halley Gross). In among their combined credits, films like A History of Violence and David Fincher’s The Game along with episodes of Westworld show that there’s a glimmer of something at work, and while Trigger Warning could have benefited from a script with a little bit more on its mind, it’s smooth and serviceable and at times even vaguely politically interesting. The Reagan-era shoot-em-ups it’s modelled on were not known for their progressivism, pushing a rough red meat conservative agenda and while Trigger Warning is still very pro-military, it’s also violently against the racism and regression of Republican politics. Hall’s rightwing politician is a villain not just for his actions but for his beliefs, topped only by the film’s ultimate Big Bad: white male domestic terrorists.

It’s not quite enough to push the film into genuinely smart or noteworthy territory but it adds some punchy election year anger to Alba’s inevitable and involving revenge mission and tracks that it was made by a non-American – the English-language debut from the Indonesian director Mouly Surya. Alba hasn’t always made the strongest impression as an actor but this mode works well for her, convincing both in her many hand-to-hand combat scenes (her weapon of choice is a knife rather than a gun) and as an old-fashioned movie star, light on emotional depth but heavy on charisma. It’s a pretty straightforward reintroduction but an effective one and while nothing here is distinctive enough to demand more from the character, there are many more worse sequel prospects, especially within Netflix’s franchise farm.

Like the streamer’s many no-attention-required romcoms, it’s a copy of a copy of a copy built to disappear from one’s memory as soon as the credits begin. It’ll do for Friday night, just don’t expect to remember it come Sunday.

  • Trigger Warning is now available on Netflix


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