Thursday, July 24, 2014

In short: Silent Trigger (1996)

A sniper (Dolph Lundgren) working as an assassin for The Agency and a spotter (Gina Bellman) he once worked with during her first assignment that ended in a right clusterfuck reunite for another assassination in a weird empty apartment building.

While the two are preparing their hit, the film clues the audience in on the way their first bad work together went down via flashbacks. In the present, the sniper and the spotter find themselves facing various problems, namely that one of the building’s security guards (Christopher Heyerdahl) is a cocaine-addled crazy rapist, and the other (Conrad Dunn) is so by the book it becomes slightly surreal, which is not conducive to a good working environment for professional killers. Then there’s the little fact the sniper is sure his own agency is out to get him, and suspects the spotter might just be meant to clean him up after the hit.

Russell Mulcahy’s Silent Trigger is one of the finest films I’ve seen Dolph Lundgren in. It may have a rather thin plot, a weird structure, and only tenuous connections to outside reality, but it’s the sort of film where these are strengths rather than weaknesses; not a film that’s trying to convince its audience of the physical reality of what’s happening in it but rather one working hard to induce a dream-like mental state in a viewer.

This does of course play to Mulcahy’s strengths as a director who traded in a curiously individual video clip inspired aesthetic at least since Razorback, sometimes with great success, sometimes with very little of it. If Mulcahy is good at one thing it’s using bizarre, unreal set design, moody and highly artificial looking lighting and all manner of slo-mo effects to turn everything he touches into a dream.

Consequently, Silent Trigger is all about building a slightly unreal mood where the characters’ archetypal yet ambiguous dance of distrust, attraction and violence can play out in. This also just happens to be pretty much the only environment where I can imagine the script’s experimental (some might think it’s just shoddy but I disagree) start-and-stop structure as well as a pacing that (like the film’s characters) only seems to know standstill and high octane and doesn’t believe in switching slowly between them, actually working. At least, here it does work.

If I step away from the film’s mood for a moment, I also see some real creativity in action scenes that blow-up some very simple set-ups (and at its core very little production values beyond Mulcahy’s aesthetic obsessions) into moments of excitement and disquietude.

You might also be surprised at the quality of the four core performances with Dolph’s typical disillusioned assassin (how often has he played one of these?) seeming quite believable brittle around the edges, and Bellman projecting a confounding mix of sexiness and ambiguity. Or you might hate Silent Trigger for doing weird things to the direct-to-DVD action formula, but then that’s the thing one may love the film for just as much.


DOLPH - The Ultimate Guide said...

Coming soon on glorious Blu-ray in its original widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio in Germany (and with extras) thanks to Subkultur Entertainment!

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Oh, that's excellent news. I'm looking forward to throwing money at them.