While Dolph Lundgren’s heyday may be behind him, he has struck out in inspiring directions with his numerous low budget action flicks. Lundgren has (arguably) become a more engaging actor, showing great emotional depth, and even has directed some fun films such as Command Performance. So, if you were to tell me that he stars in a movie about a squad of soldiers taking out a city full of zombies, I would be genuinely excited. Dead Trigger, occasionally seen with the subtitle Unkilled, is that zombie action film.
Based on the video game of the same name, Dead Trigger takes place years after zombies have decimated the population. Those who are still alive, try to find comfort in living relatively normal lives. Entertainment such as video games and TV shows are still around. There is a government hierarchy, and heck, there’s even a billionaire corporation; so I guess the apocalypse can’t kill capitalism. Aside from encounters with zombies, things are at a pretty good baseline.
“…takes place years after zombies have decimated the population. Those who are still alive, try to find comfort in living relatively normal lives.”
The government formed a new agency, the CSU, to fight the undead scourge and it is Kyle’s (Dolph Lundgren) job to train the new recruits. These young soldiers are Daniel (Justin Chon), Chris (Chris Galya), Nika (Alyona Chekhova), and Zack (Michael Kupisk). While still training, they get an extraction mission in Terminal City, as the green behind the ears team is the closest available unit for the job. Now, these ‘dead triggers,’ called such for their short life expectancy, must find their target and bring her safely out of the zombie-infested area, all the while surviving and proving themselves worthy.
For those interested, yes this film is based on the Madfingers videogame of the same name; though I never played it so I can’t attest to its accuracy. What I can state is that Dead Trigger is mundane and forgettable in the worst possible way. In 2014, the really cool Lundgren film Battle Of The Damned was released. In that movie, he plays an elite military soldier sent on a rescue mission after a deadly viral outbreak, while having to contend with murderous robots as well.
For the first thirty or so minutes of this movie, I would have sworn this was a direct sequel to that previous film. There are striking similarities in terms of setting, characterization, and production design abound; Lundgren’s costume design here feels directly lifted from the earlier title. As they say, it is all in the execution. Whereas the 2014 movie is engaging with fun action scenes, Dead Trigger is a bore.
“…still only three good video game movie adaptations, and this is not one of them.”
Maybe it is due to the source material, or it could be lousy writing. More than likely though it is a combination thereof, but the characters are all one-dimensional with no arc. Lundgren’s Kyle has a tragic backstory which of course involves him killing his family after they become zombies. The general in charge of the CSU is corrupt and is indebted to the corporate stooges, because why not? To make matters worse, co-writers and directors Mike Cuff and Scott Windhauser ripoff Starship Troopers in the worst way. The movie starts off with a somewhat tongue in cheek commercial for this corporation, ostensibly about the weapons they are selling. This level of satire is never seen nor heard again, meaning that any resemblance to Verhoeven’s masterpiece is superficial and unearned.
As far as the cast goes, no one embarrasses themselves, so that is good. However, everyone is capable of giving stronger performances than this; it is just that they are given nothing to work with. This excludes Lundgren who waltzes through the film half asleep and seemingly confused. This is the worst acting from him in quite some time.
Dead Trigger isn’t the worst film ever, but it oddly plays things safe. The characters have no discernible personalities, the story threads are very familiar, and the action is as generic as you can imagine. There are still only three good video game movie adaptations, and this is not one of them.
Dead Trigger (2019) Directed by Mike Cuff, Scott Windhauser. Written by Mike Cuff, Scott Windhauser. Starring Dolph Lundgren, Justin Chon, Chris Galya, Alyona Chekhova, Michael Kupisk.
4 out of 10 Shambling Corpses