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.