Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Topakk (Trigger)

FrightFest review – Topakk (Trigger)

A long, violent, exciting action film from the Philippines, which seems to be a mash-up of Assault on Precinct 13 (specifically, the remake of Assault on Precinct 13) and First Blood … with a dollop of The Exterminator thrown in.

A prologue finds special forces guy Miguel (Arjo Atayde) in the jungle with his crew – his best friend shares the news that he’s about to become a father, which is plainly asking for trouble.  The unit is almost wiped out by a militant religious group but Miguel goes into survivalist overdrive and kills every man jack of them with guns, punches, machetes and sheer homicidal frenzy.  Invalided out of the army with PTSD, he takes a quiet, easy gig as night watchman in a huge derelict industrial yard where a lot of sharp, flammable, heavy, rusty and dangerous things are stored.  On his first night on the job, a couple of teenagers flee into the yard pursued by an off-the-books death squad who have been deployed against drug gangs as part of a cynical exercise to cut crime and control the lucrative illegal business.  The kids have survived a massacre, and now two or three factions of killers want them dead to tidy up the loose ends – and Miguel is set to be liquidated too.  Whereupon, he goes into killing machine mode again.  It’s one of those films which keeps having to call in more bad guys because the hero goes through them in bunches at a time – even the leading lady (Julia Montes) is inspired to batter, bludgeon and saw through killers – and third act complications have to turn on the villains turning on each other because the hero doesn’t so much have an arc as a need to purge his demons by reducing people around him to splattered piles of flesh.

Director Richard Somes stages non-stop brutality an carnage in the Ong-Bak or Raid manner, with a particular brawl-in-a-scrapyard grunginess that privileges gruesomeness over anything like martial artistry.  It’s shallow in its depiction of PTSD, but Atayde at least has a haunted, harrowed presence to carry him through the relatively few scenes in which he’s not killing people.  The subtitle on the print I saw was Trigger, but the international title seems to be Triggered.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.







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