Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Trigger Man (2007)

Dir. Ti West
Starring: Reggie Cunningham, Ray Sullivan, Sean Reid, Heather Robb

“Be patient!” the character of Sean tells his deer-hunting companions around half an hour into the film Trigger Man. “We’ve been patient!” his exasperated friends reply. I knew how they felt. Thirty minutes in, nothing had happened, and I was already bored.

One of the few plus points I can find about Trigger Man is that it is short, only 80 minutes long. But that 80 minutes is really padded out. I would say quarter of an hour could have been cut easily – maybe even twenty if the director / editor / writer / cinematographer / producer Ti West had decided to not be so indulgent. The film opens with Sean (Sean Reid) pulling up in a car outside a New York apartment. He exits the car and crosses the road. He rings the intercom. There is no answer. He waits. This takes three minutes. And it is not a ‘build the tension’ three minutes either; it is three minutes shot from across the street with a jerky handheld camera that incorporates a sudden unexpected zoom in for no real purpose. However, his friends then come out to see him.  Reggie goes to buy some cigarettes. He walks into a corner shop. He spends thirty seconds looking at drinks in the chiller cabinet. He then turns away without having bought a drink, buys a packet of fags, walks out on to the street, pauses, and rejoins his friends. That’s another minute gone. By the time the opening credits start, eight minutes in, the audience has learned:
1)      there are three people who know each other slightly
2)      one of them is engaged / married and is driving his fiancé / wife’s car
3)      another one smokes
4)      one has long hair
And that is it.

Plot, characterisation and character development are almost non-existent. Sean takes two old friends (very old – they didn’t even know whether he was engaged / married) out deer hunting. He has got into it to bond with his father-in-law, they have never done it before and are more interested in drinking and shooting then stealthy tracking. They drive out from New York into the woods. They poke around a bit. Then, forty minutes in, someone starts shooting them. The character of Sean is established as being a bit preppy, marrying into money. He develops by being shot by an unseen assailant for no particular reason.  The character of Ray (Ray Sullivan) is established as having long hair and refusing to use the corner shop next door because “Jihadists” now run it; it is also established that he has, at one point, watched the movie Predator. He develops by being shot by an unseen assailant for no particular reason. The character of Reggie (Reggie Cunningham) is established as someone who smokes and who seems to have a relationship problem in his life. He develops by being shot by an unseen assailant for no particular reason. On 55 minutes a fourth character is introduced, that of Jogger (Heather Robb). The character of Jogger is established as being a female who jogs,. She also stretches and drinks water but does not speak. She develops by being shot by an unseen assailant for no particular reason. Eventually the audience gets to see the previously unseen killers. They themselves are killed before uttering a single line of dialogue. And that’s it. There is no explanation as to why these two men have been randomly shooting people. There is no link between them and the three deer-hunters; the three friends were just unlucky to have been in the same location at the same time as the two killers. I kept looking for something to tie it all together. Maybe there was an environmental message suggesting that the three friends were just innocent prey to the killers, just as the deer would have been prey to them? No. There wasn’t. Maybe they would have dark secrets and they were being punished for their previous actions, as in Saw? Unless watching Predator counts as a crime, however, we know nothing about their previous actions – and even then it was not established that Sean had seen that movie. Maybe there would be a twist and a character from earlier on in the film would be revealed as the murderer (the Scooby-Doo “Why, it’s Old Man Rivers who runs the haunted amusement arcade!” ending)? However, considering that there were no other characters in the film – with the possible exception of an elderly Chinese lady who walks past Sean on the street in New York – this was always going to be unlikely. There was no twist. There was no rationale behind the attacks. Not only did I waste 80 minutes of my life watching the film, I wasted it trying to spot links, motives and reasons that simply were not there.

Trust me - I know how you feel...

Nor are the production values particularly good. The handheld camera is wobbly and the sound quality is abysmal, particularly whenever the action takes place near to a stream. There is some use of soundtrack near the beginning. Use of it during the film’s finale would have possibly added some tension. Instead we just had a man walking around an abandoned mill in silence. At least Rosalie Goes Shopping had good production values and a proper story. To be honest, the whole thing was so amateurish, I feel slightly bad reviewing it in such negative terms. If a group of mates of mine had spent an afternoon knocking something like this up in a park I would have been quite impressed. However, the thing clearly has pretensions to professionalism, and wants to be Deliverance or The Blair Witch Project. It isn’t. It was launched upon an unsuspecting paying public and so I have no hesitation in slating it. Frankly, it gives independent cinema a bad name!

I have watched this movie, people, so you do not have to. Use your 80 minutes of freedom wisely. Make love, sit in the sun, spend time with your children, alphabetise your CD collection, just for the love of God do not watch this film.

What have I learnt about Delaware?
It is not until the credits roll that the film specifies that it was shot in Delaware. Neither do any of the characters make reference to Delaware. The only comment they make about location is when Sean, in answer to a question, says that the river they are looking at may be the Brandywine. This creek rolls down from southern Pennsylvania to feed into the Christina and Delaware Rivers in Wilmington.

Accepting this fact, however, I now know that northern Delaware is easily drivable from New York – the entire journey would only take around two-and-a-half hours, making a day trip from NYC feasible. There are wild deer that can be hunted in the wooded northern part of the state, surprisingly close in to the city of Wilmington. And the rocky falls of the Brandywine Creek have obviously been utilised in the past for industry, as the existence of the abandoned mill proves.

Can we go there?
Yes. The bulk of the film was shot in Delaware’s Alapocas Run State Park and Rockford Park. These are right in Wilmington itself. It certainly seems worth a look if you are in the neighbourhood, with paths, woods and deer (though I doubt that you are allowed to hunt so near to the city centre). The abandoned mill featured is the Bancroft Mills complex; these mills produced textiles from 1831 up until they closed in 1961. It is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and is currently being converted into luxury condominiums under the name of ‘Rockford Falls’. The cliffs across the creek where Sean takes his whiz are used as a rock climbing course.

Overall Rating: 0/5

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