Monday, March 2, 2009

In Brief: TRIGGER MAN (2007)

What's Kino, a DVD label nearly as prestigious as Criterion, doing carrying this low-budget shoot-'em up from Ti West, a director with so few credentials that the box cover bills him as the director of a film that has yet to appear -- and that's Cabin Fever 2? One reason seems to be that Trigger Man got some positive reviews from critics who admired its rigorous approach to a simple story. Indeed, there's nothing fancy about this movie -- there's nothing much about it, period. It takes minimalism to the edge of nothingness, but doesn't quite tumble over to oblivion. It does leave you wondering what the point was to it all.

There's not much to say other than we follow three guys into the woods on a hunting trip that seems more like an opportunity to fire guns and drink beer until, as they say, the hunters become the hunted. West does offer an interesting twist on the formula, as the menace comes not from within the woods itself, but from a grim looking apparently abandoned factory complex. Our heroes are at the border of civilization, questioning whether they should be firing guns so close to a populated area, when the mayhem begins.

The object seems to be to get our adrenalin pumping as the survivors of the first shots run for cover, then to set our nerves at edge as the last survivor decides that his only chance is to go into the factory and track down the sniper. West succeeds at his first objective, but bogs down toward the end. The problem is, once we're down to the final guy, then either the film is going to be very short or we can safely assume that he won't be struck down from out of nowhere. This is where West's decision not to do point-of-view shots of the sniper hurts him. Once we begin to decide that the final guy is safe for the time being, shots from the sniper's view might shake us out of our growing complacency. But West staked success on our worrying that the final guy could be struck down at any moment, and for me, at least, that strategy failed.

The other reason for Trigger Man's being seems to be to serve up some modest samples of modern day gore. We get two particularly gruesome headshots, one made more awful by the surviving hero's pathetic attempt to collect the blasted brains of his buddy, the other made more gratuitously sickening by a closeup of blood dripping from a shard of shattered skull. I may have just recommended the film for some people, and I ought to say that the film isn't bad or poor. It has an admirable ambition to make a virtue of limited resources and authentic locations, but doesn't quite work as planned. Fans of outdoor suspense and bloodshed may like it better than I did, but those who approach it without such specialized interests may like it less. To each your own.

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