Dolph Lundgren has a thing for scarves. No really, he does. Just look.
In Dead Trigger, a mysterious virus has killed billions and created a host of zombies in its wake. Years later as life gets back to "normal" the government has created a video game to recruit the world's best zombie killers to join a special operations unit tasked with killing the real-life horde of flesh-eating monsters.
There was a time, let's say the 1980s when Dolph Lundgren was a bankable action hero (villain) that could carry just about any turgid script that came his way. It's pretty obvious that those days are far behind him.
At 61 years of age, the geriatric action movie star is joining the ranks of Eric Roberts and Danny Trejo for the throne of B-movie action king. It's like they just can't say to any piece of tripe that crosses their hands.
That being said, they have also culled a pretty rabid fan base (I'm going to get letters) of people who love seeing them in these type of films. With last year's mini-resurgence, I had held out hope that perhaps we'd get to see Dolph elevate his career one last time. Sadly though, it seems that his best days are behind him.
Dead Trigger is based on a video game and in the spirit of video game adaptations, it proves the old adage true. It is truly hard to perfect a film-adaptation of a beloved video game. And I'm not even sure that Dead Trigger was much beloved as a video game.
The movie seems like a cross-breed between the latest The Walking Dead plot and just about any of the thousand or so zombie films that have come out in the last decade. In fact, Dolph Lundgren starred in one himself (shocker) and I'm pretty sure that they could have simply created Dead Trigger from discarded footage from Battle of the Damned and I doubt anyone would have noticed.
Dolph is actually serviceable as the elder commander of the special zombie-killing unit. He's able to call upon his decades worth of work in the genre and generally turns in a respectable if not forgettable performance. The same can't be said for his co-stars.
While vets Isaiah Washington and Autumn Reeser deliver professional performance, the green recruits really take you out of the film at times. Most of the unknown actors comprise the young video game recruits plucked out of their everyday lives to be confronted with nonstop life and death scenarios. I can't really tell if they were simply bad actors (they probably are) or just really good at being unprepared, but they just didn't add anything to the film and I found myself secretly hoping that the zombies would just pick them all off already.
The other thing that I really found off about the movie was the film's tone. The film started (and ended) with what I can only imagine was an ill-attempted homage to Starship Troopers. These propaganda pieces seem to have been tacked on at the last minute in an effort to salvage an otherwise forgettable film that we have seen already a half dozen times in the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, the gimmick didn't work and left us with more questions than answers. That said, I do think that the zombie genre is really lacking in black comedies with the rare exception such as Zombieland and Warm Bodies. It takes great skill to pull them off which is why they are so rare, but sadly the first-time directors here aren't able to save their doomed project.
Overall, Dead Trigger is the type of direct-to-cable movie that would pop up all over the place in the 1990s. With the advent of Netflix, thankfully these type of offerings have all but dried up as even cable channels are being challenged to raise the bar thanks to their newfound competition. With no other outlet though, it seems that lousy direct-to-video B movies will be with us for the foreseeable future.
If you're a Dolph Lundgren completist, God bless you for it will take the patience of the Almighty to sit through Dead Trigger without a copious amount of mind-altering substances at hand. Dead Trigger is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, but there are a litany of better zombie films out there and I implore you to seek them out if you can.