So once again we have survived.

Silent Trigger

I hoped this would be one of the better Dolph Lundgren vehicles, because it’s directed by Russell Mulcahy, who used to be so good. This was ’96, his next movie after ’94’s THE SHADOW. I guess this is his punishment, but THE SHADOW is more fun. SILENT TRIGGER is at least watchable, but so are other things that are actually good.

Lundgren plays a sniper who I thought was unnamed, but IMDb lists him as “Waxman.” He’s living in an almost empy loft with a mattress on the floor. Somebody might be in trouble, I’m guessing, ’cause this seems like a sniper who’s ready to leave town quick.

He’s not in a good place mentally, according to his flashbacks. He’s fresh off a disastrous mission where he didn’t pull the trigger because the target, some kind of female politician, was holding somebody’s baby. And then he continued to hesitate, so his female spotter Clegg (Gina Bellman) was ordered to shoot him and then a helicopter full of soldiers came after him (I’m not clear if they were his people or the military who should’ve been protecting that lady).

Apparently he’s still working for the same organization and is assigned the same spotter again, much to her surprise. She’s right to be surprised, because they wanted to kill him before, now they want him again and he’s okay working for them? It’s just weird.

They sneak into a high tech, not-in-use skyscraper guarded only by two desk jockeys, where they will set up for an assassination scheduled for the morning. I guess they like to get there early, like lining up for the big summer movie to get the best seats.

There’s a unique b-movie conflict here that makes it semi-entertaining at times. One of the two security guards (Christopher Heyerdahl, BLADE PART 3: TRINITY) is one of these preposterous assholes you mostly see in slasher movies. He points a rifle at his partner’s head as a joke, drinks on the job, snorts coke on the job, starts sexually harassing Clegg as soon as she comes into the building with a fake work order, threatens her on an elevator, calls her a bitch, won’t let his partner call the cops because of some macho “I am the law here” power fetish. Also in one scene he pulls his shirt off to show that he has tattoos of spiders all over himself and starts talking to them as his “boys.” That was a pretty good part. Would’ve liked to see Nicolas Cage in this role.

So the middle section is kind of a stalker movie, with this security guard trying to rape Clegg. She’s tough but can’t always overpower him and has to get rescued by Waxman. I have to say, I lost some respect for her as a female badass when she started throwing herself at Waxman minutes after he chained her attempted rapist to a shitty toilet. Have some more self respect than that, lady.

But I guess I can understand why they go for each other. I wish these two could get together, but they gotta get out of this job. This is the second time she’s had to pull a sidearm and threaten to kill him because of work. Some couples that have the same job, they only ever fight at work.

At its best the movie has kind of a cool night-on-the-job-with-some-assassins feel. There’s the simplicity of them just being in this one building waiting, plus the complications of these flashbacks showing us piece-by-piece how they got away after their last assignment, plus an implication that there was more of a relationship between them than just shooting people together, and they’re still dealing with these feelings. As a story it could work. Every once in a while it feels like it is working. But not often enough to keep it from being kinda boring. There are a couple plot twists that will give it a charge for a second and then you think wait a minute, does that make any sense at all? If that guy was that, why was he doing such and such earlier?

Alot of it comes down to feel. The building set is pretty cheesy, looks like it’s left over from some early ’90s syndicated sci-fi show. The assassin protocol isn’t detailed enough to feel authentic. It doesn’t seem like they’re ever worried about getting caught. No talk of escape or not leaving evidence. At the end they hang around and are in no hurry to leave after an assassination, a huge shootout and huge explosions, which should’ve tipped off any witnesses or authorities to where the bullets might’ve come form. Or would be at least worth sending a patrol car to check out, you’d think.

If it worked you would feel like you’re getting a look at how this organization works. Instead you feel like you’re seeing another god damn movie about assassins.

But Dolph is good. I always like when he’s playing a guy who speaks in complete sentences. I wish he got to fight more, but he does throw a guy through some dry wall. He rides on the top of an elevator. Stuff like that. It’s pretty cool when he has a gunfight with a helicopter, despite some crude special effects. And there’s some good extra-bloody squibs. Bellman is cute, and has a New Zealand accent. The deciding factor is probly Mulcahy, whose filmatism is adequate but lacks the style and energy that made his earlier movies so nice to look at.

I actually suspect this was the breaking point in Mulcahy’s career. I looked it up, THE SHADOW was only about a $25 million movie apparently, and did make more money than that. But it wasn’t a huge success and here’s Mulcahy two years later doing a $9 million Dolph movie that must not’ve gotten much of a release. Things just weren’t the same after THE SHADOW. Since then he’s done DTV and TV and even the better ones don’t feel like the same guy who did RAZORBACK and HIGHLANDER and RICOCHET. It doesn’t seem like his heart is in it anymore. He used to be a great stylist with a hint of visionary, now he just seems like a generic director-for-hire of low budget genre throwaways.

Maybe they’ll give him EXPENDABLES 3.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, August 13th, 2012 at 12:56 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Silent Trigger”

  1. I actually thought Mulcahy did some decent work in the third Resident Evil film. The story etc is bit mad, but the action is pretty good, and it introduced the gore level the series really needed.

  2. I always liked this movie and put it among Dolph’s best, mostly for its surreal dreamlike post-apocalyptical atmosphere. It’s just too bad that in the German version a plot twist gets ruined through an unfortunate voice actor choice.

  3. After the first scene with the helicopters and shit, I thought I’d found a winner, but the plot just meandered around that fucking boring-ass office building for so long that I lost track of what anybody was even supposed to be doing. Still, it’s probably better than fellow A-list dropout Ted Kotcheff’s similarly titled HIDDEN ASSASSIN from the previous year. At least Dolph got rid of the floppy Dawson’s Creek bangs by the time Mulcahy got a hold of him.

  4. Mulcahy was a great music video director in the 80’s as well. Hungry Like a Wolf being my personal favorite.

  5. Ross – I forgot about the Resident Evil he did. So he *has* returned to do a pretty mainstream theatrical release type movie. I’ve always meant to see that one even though the first one was so boring I never watched the sequels.

    By the way, I meant that last sentence to be read two ways. On one hand, it wouldn’t be surprising for Stallone to pick a burnt out, mediocre director for Expendables 3. On the other hand I’d love it if a movie like that was the spark that would reignite what was great about early Mulcahy. In fact, I’m sure I’d be excited if they chose him.

  6. I thought Mulcahy’s TV remake of On The Beach was superior to the ’50s original – more emotionally rounded and complex. Mulcahy’s visual style and energy add a lot, and despite being 3 hours long, it honestly feels shorter than the powerful but somewhat redundant original.

  7. I wouldn’t hold any breath hoping for Mulcahy to be selected for Expendables 3; wasn’t he the director fired a couple weeks into production of Rambo III?

    Also, I love his Crypt episodes, especially Split Second with Brion James.

  8. Yeah, Resident Evil 3 is the best of the Resident Evils and the only one that really works as an action movie.

  9. Speaking of Expendables:

    By Sam Ashurst

    The Expendables 2 is out this week, and to celebrate, we sat down with producer Avi Lerner to discuss the movie.

    And, during our chat, Lerner revealed that he’s in talks with some of the biggest names in cinema for Expendables 3.

    “We’ve approached Clint Eastwood to be one of the guys, we’ve got a character in mind for him. We’re talking to Harrison Ford. [And we want] Wesley Snipes when he comes back from prison. I’ll give you one more name, we’ve got Nicolas Cage to play [one of the characters].”

    “And we’re going to bring Mickey Rourke back, if he won’t be too crazy. I like Mickey. And of course, all the existing stars [will return]”

    Which is obviously fairly incredible.

    If Lerner manages to get all of the above, along with all the returning stars from Expendables 1 and 2, all we need to know is whether it would be possible for us to buy our tickets now. We’ll take 10, just in case we lose the other nine.

    Before we get to a fairly spoilery section of the interview, we’d just like to apologise for not catching the name of Nicolas Cage’s Expendables 3 character. It’s mainly because we got so excited we dropped our Dictaphone.

    We’ve listened to the recording several times now, and we’re pretty sure Lerner says that Cage will be playing someone called Hunter Grimlenson. Or it could be Hunter Gatherer. Or something that has nothing to do with Hunters. You heard it here first!

    Anyway, we’re about to get to something very spoilery now, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, we advise heading straight to the comments section.

    Seriously, it’ll spoil your fun to read on, so stop now if you haven’t seen the film.

    http://www.totalfilm.com/news/clint-eastwood-in-talks-for-expendables-3

  10. Holy shit, I was just looking at Mulcahy’s imdb page and realised that he directed Swimming Upstream, a pretty good Australian movie starring Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis about some famous swimmer. Watched it years ago and quite liked it. I even bought the DVD just the other day (still haven’t rewatched it, though). Such a strange film for a guy who’s so associated with genre movies.

    Anyway, I vote for a The Shadow reboot. Get Garth Ennis to write it.

  11. Yeah I remember watching the first 15 minutes of this and thinking “hey this isn’t bad…”
    Then it just falls apart and I struggled to finish it.

    I liked Mulcahy back in the day. Seemed like he was trying to be B ACTION DEPALMA. Now he’s just a boring dtv guy. Expendables 3 is out because Sly fired him for casting model-types to play TUFF GUY SOLDIERS in RAMBO III. I believe Stallone talked about that in one of his Aint It Cool Q&As.

  12. found the Sly/Mulcahy story:
    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/35350

    “Yes, Russell Mulcahy, I thought did a brilliant job on several music videos and eventually “Highlander”. I remember calling him from an editing room and telling him what a wonderful job he had done. He answered back in a bored fashion “Why thank you darling.” So I hired him. He went to Israel two weeks before me with the task of casting two dozen vicious looking Russian troops. These men were suppose to make your blood run cold. When I arrived on the set, what I saw was two dozen blond, blue-eyed pretty boys that resembled rejects from a surfing contest. Needless to say Rambo is not afraid of a little competition but being attacked by third rate male models could be an enemy that could overwhelm him. I explained my disappointment to Russell and he totally disagreed, so I asked him and his chiffon army to move on.”

  13. That’s an interesting story. Well, that clearly rules him out from the Expendables franchise.

  14. I’m going to hijack this for a moment. I just saw Expendables 2. It’s fucking terrible. But it’s so bad it’s good. Lots of heads coming off a la Old Man Rambo. The dialog is so painful that the audience was laughing – at the “tragic moments”. When the actors are referencing their own older movies, it’s pretty ear gouging.

    But when it’s on, it’s on – the camaraderie in some of the scenes really works. The opening action sequence was outstanding, even if Hemsworth works the most rapid fire 50 cal I’ve ever seen.

    And Chuck Norris fucking owns this movie. He Chuckjacks* shots all the time, and has some of the best lines in the film. Seriously – see this opening night – the reaction will be best with a crowd that’s into it. Adkins is barely in it (Li is pretty much just a cameo too, but gets a great line). This feels more like an ensemble, and less like the Barney and Christmas story.

    *Chuckjacking – when Chuck Norris randomly appears in a shot and kills someone. Particularly potent when he makes a random appearance in someone else’s one-shot.

  15. Majestyk, HIDDEN ASSASSIN is Dolph’s best Prague movie, and way better than SILENT TRIGGER. I think Kotcheff showed good form on that, even if he’s about 20 years older than Mulcahy. I agree with you about Dolph’s hair, but he’s Swedish, so…

  16. Mulcahy directed the pilot and continues to direct MTV’S TEEN WOLF.

  17. New rule; from now on when ever Christopher Heyerdal is mentioned, so must his role as Thor Gunderson, the Norwegian they call The Swede, in HELL ON WHEELS.

  18. strangely enough, The Shadow is one of the first movies I have a clear memory of seeing, I watched it when it first came out on VHS with some of my cousins, the dagger with the face on the handle that bites Baldwin’s hand freaked me out

  19. one of my cousins also had a The Shadow action figure

  20. I could get behind a remake of The Shadow. The first movie was fun, even though it sort of fell apart at the end. There were some interesting visuals. Too bad it completely bombed.

  21. pegsman: Yeah, maybe HIDDEN ASSASSIN is a better movie than SILENT TRIGGER in that it, like, makes sense and stuff, but it’s just so ordinary. It’s competent and professional, but you could have plugged basically any actor of appropriate age into that part and it would have been the same movie, and that’s not why I see movies starring a gigantic Nordic muscleman who knows karate. You gotta put a little extra mustard on there to earn Dolph’s presence, in my opinion.

  22. Never seen SILENT TRIGGER or HIDDEN ASSASSIN so I can´t comment on those.The recent ONE IN THE CHAMBER was surprisingly good,though.Highly recommended.

  23. A proper SHADOW movie would require too much references to pulp stories and more explicit violence than most other comic book properties to ever really fly in today’s market. It won’t have enough explosions, bloodless action or superheros talking to each other and bad mouthing each other left and right to attract the fools that make hollywood money now a days.

  24. Mr Majestyk, I guess it has something to do with the fact that I love Prague. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that city presented so well in an action movie. THE MECHANIK is still my favorite Dolph movie, though.

    Shoot, let’s hope they do a sequel to ONE IN THE CHAMBER where Cuba and Dolph work together.

  25. I think MEN OF WAR is kind of great because of the last 20 minutes and also because Dolph actually plays a swede in this.

  26. In other Dolph and EXP2 related news we finally got the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 4 (or is it 6?) trailer fellas

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ac1Y60CEc&feature=player_embedded#!

    Interesting that Luc is going all Colonel Kurtz since that was Andrew Scott’s previous role. I guess that means they’re going to ride the revolutionary schtick with the beret wearing Dolph all the way to contrast him with Van Damme’s Brando in APOCALYPSE NOW.

  27. John Lone is frickin’ brilliant in THE SHADOW. Alac Baldwin calls him a barbarian and he sort of yells ‘THANK YOU!’ His voice is fantastic. Also Penelope Ann Miller in that slinky dress.

    SILENT TRIGGER is pretty dull though. And very blue filtered if I remember correctly. Never a fan of RM, although I liked RAZORBACK, but even being a Scotsman and an actual highlander, I wasn’t a fan of HIGHLANDER, which I watched in the highlands.

  28. The Original... Paul

    August 14th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    I did a write-up on “Silent Trigger” in one of the Potpourris I think. I basically agree with Vern but would go one step further than he does. This is both bad in a mediocre way, and mediocre in a bad way. My recommendation would be: stay the hell away from this movie. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, but nothing in it is deserving of your time.

    I said at the time that I wanted to see a Stealth Dolph movie. Play up his intelligence; have him use surprise, stealth and superior tactics to get ahead of the hostile commandoes / ninja assassins / rampaging experimental cloned dinosaurs. I had high hopes for this one, but it left me really disappointed. REALLY disappointed. Mark Wahlberg’s “Shooter” captured the “feel” of what I imagine it’s like to be a sniper a hundred times better than this movie did.

    Also it should have “WARNING: NOT AN ACTUAL SNIPER MOVIE” on the cover in big red letters.

  29. This one sort of reminded me of the convoluted, confusing, poorly made (but with so much potential) filmatism of Albert Pyun film.

    There’s a whole bunch of 90s films with the vibe of this one. But I can only think of Pyun films right now (Split Second, Mean Guns, that decent(ish) Oliver Gruner sci-fi one).

    What’s that stupid one where the main dude has a machine gun arm?

    Double Team has that same empty, confusing, shitty feel too, but is so gonzo craZy that it is entertaining and not just boring as fuck like most low-budget 90s action schtick.

    Speaking of under-the-radar 90s action films, does someone here want to list a few favourites? I’m on a 90s bender.

    Watched Timecop last night. It was better and worse than I remembered. I thought it was more epic, but basically it’s just Van Damme chasing around Ron Silver and beating up the occasional henchman. Still, it was fun.

    I’m going to watch Soldier tonight and see if it’s as bad as I remember. I recall thinking the sets were fucking horrible, not to mention that Jason Scott Lee can’t fucking act at all.

    Hmmm, stream of consciousness shared.

  30. I just realised I made it sound like I thought Double Team was an “under-the-radar low-budget 90s action film”.

    It isn’t. It just felt like some of those low-budget confusing 90s films. But it was better because Van Damme got slapped by Rob Schnieder’s salmon … wait, no, that’s another confusing bonkers crazy Van Damme film.

  31. Suprised at the lukewarm reaction to this. One of my fave Dolph flicks, if only because of the sheer strangeness of it all. Some sort of semi-abstract thing where Sniper Dolph seemingly has to relive or re-experience the failed mission in a new setting. It’s a total mood piece, beautifully shot ( have any of you guys actually seen this in 2.35? There are some amazing shots in this…). It could certainly do with a greater sense of fun, but this is not only one of my favourites from Dolph, it’s also one of my favourite Mulcahy movies. Writer Sergio Atieri hasn’t written a thing since – except upcoming Arnold vehicle UNKNOWN SOLDIER. Russel Mulcahy is gay by the way. Noramlly maybe this would not be worth mentioning, but in light of the RAMBO III anecdote I find it kind of amusing. Not your ordinary male gaze!

    Way superior to HIDDEN ASSASSIN, in my opinion, but not up there with MEN OF WAR.

  32. Nice! Was it on that the movie Tarantino and Rodriguez worked as production assistants?

  33. Oops. I stopped to write that after having seen only the opening seconds. I see now that it’s a nice collage. Cool find. Almost as cool as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vw_-uylxNE

    And it was QT and Roger Avary I meant, obviously. Their names are even highlighted…

  34. Forrest Taft – that video shows exactly why I just can’t take Van Damme seriously, I’m sorry, I just can’t, the guy is fucking hilarious

  35. Have no problem understanding that Griff. Van Damme, like Seagal, has done so much bordering on parody that I understand how some folks can’t take them seriously. Not a problem for me though!

  36. I see Stu’s commercial and raise to this music video: http://youtu.be/1m9StAEBlac

  37. British people drink Coors light? I find that hard to believe, I thought outside of the U.S. everyone disregarded beers like that as pisswater

  38. I’m with Forrest here, I consider this one of the most underrated action B-movies ever. And from what I read around the web, most people see it the same way. Barely anybody even knows Silent Trigger exists, but those who do tend to love it to pieces, and be surprised at how unknown it has remained, when you compare it to the success of more formulaic flicks.

    It’s got some trademark bumpy dialogue at times and whatnot, sure, but in the end it’s all down to the atmosphere. First of all the sets, lighting and cinematography. It’s probably a rather bold move to have an entire action flick take place in just one building, but here it is so well done. The building becomes a character in itself. I think the best thing the writers did was to dare keep it all so mysterious. You don’t know when it takes place. Is it far into the future? The near future after some war or cataclysmic event? Or just regular economic downturn? If it is even supposed to take place in our world. It’s just one moment, you don’t know the big picture, or what happens before or after. I love that. You can let your imagination run wild and you just want to know more about this world it takes place in. Perfectly supported by a wonderful soundtrack from Stefano Mainetti and Quinn by the way, which I was lucky enough to obtain a rare copy of.

    Perhaps it’s a bit less exciting in its standard action scenes, so maybe that’s why you guys are less impressed with it. But the whole feel of it makes it one of my favourite underrated films ever. It really feels like the people involved did their best to make this not standard action B-movie fare, but, within their limited means, something special. Something that even if almost nobody knows about (or likes) it, they can look back on with some pride.

  39. Saw this again this morning. I liked it as well. Though the effects for that Helicopter explosion looked a little sub-standard.

  40. The Limited Edition Digipack is here.

    Silent Trigger Blu-ray

    Silent Trigger Blu-ray (Limited Edition) (1996): Starring Dolph Lundgren, Gina Bellman and Christopher Heyerdahl. Waxman is a former Special Forces soldier who is now working as a heavily armed assassin for a top secret government agency. When a covert mission goes...

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