Trigger Warning (2024) Review: Jessica Alba Goes Full-Fledged Action Mode in a Competently Made but Generic Netflix Thriller

Netflix already has several female-led action movies under its distribution banner, covering from The Old Guard (Charlize Theron) to Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), The Mother (Jennifer Lopez) and Heart of Stone (Gal Gadot). Adding to the roster is the long-missed Jessica Alba, whose last movie was the under-the-radar crime thriller called Killers Anonymous five years ago.

Her new movie, Trigger Warning, sees the 43-year-old actress (still looking as stunning as ever) follow the footsteps of the aforementioned actresses as she undergoes rigorous training with 87eleven, the same stunt team who did impressive action design for John Wick movies and Atomic Blonde.

The movie itself, best described as a female version of First Blood and John Wick when it was first pitched to Thunder Road Films before Netflix acquired the rights, has Alba stars as Parker Calvo. She’s a Special Forces commando returning to her hometown in Swann County from active duty following her father’s (Alejandro De Hoyos) death due to a cave-in accident. She takes over her late father’s bar and starts investigating the truth, which has something to do with her ex-boyfriend-turned-sheriff’s (Mark Webber’s Jesse) corrupt politician-father, Senator Ezekiel Swann (Anthony Michael Hall).

Trouble arises further when she also finds herself dealing with Jesse’s thuggish brother, Elvis (Jake Weary) and his gang of criminals. Making the best use of her skills garnered from her Special Forces experience, she also enlists the help of her covert ops partner and hacker Spider (Tone Bell) and local weed dealer Mike (Gabriel Basso) to right the wrongs.

Jessica Alba is no stranger to physically demanding roles, going way back to the early 2000s when she starred in the sadly shortlived Dark Angel series and others like Fantastic Four and TV’s L.A.’s Finest. It’s nice to see her back in the action-oriented role and credits to 87eleven and Indonesian director Mouly Surya (2017’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts), marking her English-language debut, for bringing out the best in Alba. She displays physical grace and athleticism in her numerous fight scenes. Whether she takes down a terrorist during the opening scene in the Syrian desert or defeating two thugs using a knife and other tools in a hardware store, Alba looks competent enough in Trigger Warning.

It also helps that Surya favours a crisp directorial approach minus the frenetic editing or jittery camerawork commonly plagued in today’s action movies. This allows us to see clearly what’s happening during the fight scenes even when some of them take place in dimly lit settings. However, the biggest downside is Surya’s otherwise steady hands lack the propulsive flair to elevate the action set-pieces to the next level. There’s certainly room for improvement here, notably the lacklustre climactic third act in the mine tunnel.

As much as I admire Alba’s physical prowess, her acting comes across as a bland protagonist. This is especially true during the non-action moments no matter whether she’s grieving for her father, recalling the past or trying to piece the puzzle regarding her father’s death. The story is disappointingly generic that not even the screenwriting trio (The Game‘s John Brancato, A History of Violence‘s Josh Olson and TV’s Westworld‘s Halley Wegryn Gross) can do much to raise it above mediocrity.

Putting the action aside, Surya’s direction is perfunctory and has none of the unique touches that she has previously excelled in her quirky, yet atmospheric spaghetti Western seen in Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts. This instantly reminds me of most if not all acclaimed Asian filmmakers crossing over to make their less-than-stellar Hollywood debuts (Ringo Lam in 1996’s Maximum Risk and Kim Jee-Woon in 2013’s The Last Stand are among them that come to mind).

The rest of the actors are forgettable and I was at least counting on former child star Anthony Michael Hall, best known in the iconic genre-defining teen comedies Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, would display some acting credibility playing a scheming character. Too bad he’s nothing more than a typical, garden-variety antagonist.

Trigger Warning is currently streaming on Netflix.