By David-Elijah Nahmod
Christopher Bradley's The Trigger is one of the darkest and bleakest films of the year.
The movie, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is a portrait of life not as we'd like it to be, but as it is. Shot on a minuscule budget in the Phoenix area, The Trigger is quite well made and tells a good story.
Slade Pearce stars as Erik, a young hustler who informs on his former drug dealer Bennie in order to get an early release from prison. Erik knows that this is going to make him a marked man, but he seems to not care. Erik yearns for family life, something he's not going to get from his alcoholic mother, who wants nothing to do with him. So he does what he needs to in order to create the family he yearns for. He takes advantage of Tommy (Daniel Kapinga), a client who loves him desperately, by pretending to love Tommy back. Tommy rents Erik an apartment buys him furniture and gets him a job. Erik then moves his girlfriend Heather (Julia Anne Severance) into the apartment, steals his dog from his mother's house, and tries to set up a semblance of home life with Heather. But things are not destined to go well. Tommy isn't going anywhere, and Bennie comes looking for Erik, as things begin to spiral out of control.
Bradley, who teaches screenwriting at Arizona State University, is also an actor. He's had roles in popular gay films such as the independently produced Leather Jacket Love Story and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. He knows what it's like to be in front of the camera, so he knows how to elicit performances from his cast. And the cast of The Trigger is superb.
Pearce is especially good as a young man who yearns for a better life, but who goes about trying to achieve it in the wrong way. Hustling and conning people are all he knows, and he's unable to break this cycle. Erik is a tragic figure who cannot see that he's his own worst enemy. His impending doom is written all over him.
Tommy, the former client who loves Erik, is the film's main gay character. He is not a positive role model. Tommy, who should know better, falls for Erik's con and tries to jump start a relationship with Erik. Tommy will do anything Erik wants him to, even as his actions put his own well being and sobriety at risk. Tommy is as much a loser as Erik. Why Tommy is so infatuated with Erik is never made clear. Nor is it made clear if Erik is gay-for-pay or bisexual.
The film features a lengthy subplot involving Erik's girlfriend Heather and her relationship with her alcoholic, dying father. Her dad is about to be evicted from his apartment and eventually does end up on the street. He's another loser, another character who can't or won't get his life together.
The Trigger is relentlessly grim, but perhaps it should be. Life isn't always kind or fair. Addiction is real. People screw up. The world is not always a pretty place. Bradley is simply showing a slice of real life.
The film transcends its low budget. Exceptionally well shot in real settings, it has the look and feel of a film with a much higher budget.
The Trigger will not be to every taste, but for those who might want to see an intense drama featuring realistic if tragic characters, it might be the film for you.
And keep an eye out for Pearce, he's quite the fine actor.
In addition to Amazon Prime, the film is on Ariztical Now, the streaming platform of Ariztical, the film's distributor: https://arizticalnow.vhx.tv/the-trigger.