Annie (Elisabeth Shue) and Matthew (Kyle MacLachlan) are a married couple with an infant daughter and a macho best friend named Joe (Dermot Mulroney). When a suddenly blackout throws the city into chaos, Matthew and Annie can only watch as the world seems to go mad all around them. Matthew quickly goes from being mild and straight-laced to stealing medicine from the local pharmacy and purchasing a shotgun with Joe. When a potential burglar is killed by one of their neighbors, Annie, Matthew, and Joe decides that it’s time to get out of town and head up to Annie’s parents’ house. Things do not go as planned as one of the three ends up seriously wounded and the members of the group have to decide how far they’ll go to survive.
The Trigger Effect has an interesting premise and raises some relevant questions about how far people will go to protect themselves in a crisis. Unfortunately, the execution is almost totally botched. Shue, MacLahclan, and Mulroney are all good actors but none of their characters are that interesting and an attempt to insert some sexual tension between Annie and Joe just feels like a cheap cliche. Since the movie doesn’t make it clear who these three were before the blackout, it’s hard to be effected by what they do after the lights go out.
Michael Rooker has a cameo at the start of the film’s third act. It involves him yelling and, because it’s a big dramatic moment, you won’t want to laugh but it’s hard not to because his rant just goes on for so long. In that one moment, whatever reality has been created by the film goes straight out the window. It all leads to a predictable ending that feels like it was taken from the Giant Book of Hollywood Cliches. That’s a good book if you can find a copy.
This was David Koepp’s directorial debut and it has the weaknesses that you would expect to find in a first film. Koepp’s second film, Stir of Echoes, would be a marked improvement.