The Trigger Effect

on August 30, 1996 by Kat Giantis
   Screenwriter David Koepp, who has written such blockbuster fare as "Jurassic Park" and "Mission: Impossible," makes his directorial debut with this apocalyptic tale of what happens when the lights go out. Kyle MacLachlan ("Showgirls") and recent Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue ("Leaving Las Vegas") are Matt and Annie, a young, well-to-do couple adjusting to adult life with an infant daughter in a large, well-appointed home at the end of a cul-de-sac. One night at the movies, when Matt is afraid to quiet a pair of talkative young black men, he lets his wife do the dirty work. When the young men launch a verbal barrage in her direction, Matt takes her to new seats instead of coming to her defense.
   That night, an unexplained electrical surge knocks out the power, the phones, and radio transmission. Matt's inability to take action at the theatre becomes significant when the couple realizes how vulnerable they now are. It's not long before their house is broken into, and Matt and his friend Joe (Dermot Mulroney) chase the thief into the street, where he is shot and killed by a neighbor. Again, Matt fails to act, lying to the cops about what really happened. He is so blind to his own situation that, when the police arrive, he asks, "Is it bad out there?" "Out where," is the officer's reply.
   Rather than play it straight and show how quickly society loses control, Koepp tries to make an important statement about people who take action and people who don't. But the statement is neither loud nor clear. Shue is suitably repressed as a former wild child coping with suburbia's demands, but she and the rest of the cast seem lost as the film reaches its incongruously clean conclusion.    Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue and Dermot Mulroney. Directed and written by David Koepp. Produced by Michael Grillo. A Gramercy release. Thriller. Rated R for language and some violence. Running time: 98 min. Screened at the Seattle fest.
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