Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Triple Threat (2019)

Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Notable Cast: Tony Jaa, Scott Adkins, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Michael Jai White, Celina Jade, Michael Bisping, Jeeja Yanin, Ron Smoorenburg, Monica Mok

Hype can be a challenging thing for a film. As soon as Triple Threat was announced, the hype was already at maximum. Between the impressive ensemble cast, the director, and the general tone that immediately came with it, Triple Threat was immediately an action fan dream – particularly from the martial arts variety. Even with all of that riding along for the journey, including how long the film was taking to get a release in the US, Triple Threat is a massive action cinema treat. It looks hype in the eye, says “talk, talk, talk” and then knocks its lights out. The fact remains, even with some smaller issues that arise here and there, that Triple Threat delivers on its promises. It has bigger than life characters, a wildly efficient plot, and enough action to shake the foundations of cinema. It’s a film that certainly gears what it does towards its distinctive audience, for better or worse, but for someone like myself I could not have had a better time watching the film.

Triple Threat tells the story of a group of mercenaries, lead by Scott Adkins in another great villainous role, who are attempting to assassinate a Chinese business icon who aims to donate her fortune to battle the drug cartels in Southeast Asia. Naturally, in this process of doing their job, these mercenaries, which is rounded out by Michael Jai White, Michael Bisping, and Jeeja Yanin, run the bad side on three gentlemen in what we shall call “the classic fuck up,”. These gentlemen are played by Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and Tiger Chen. The three last people you want to piss off. It doesn’t take long for the action to erupt, guns to blaze, and fists to fly.

Tonally, one could compare Triple Threat to that of the golden heyday of Cannon. This film is efficient. It wastes very little time on anything that will not progress the plot, the characters, or the action. Some of this is to a fault. A brief flashback into Tiger Chen’s past or the introduction of Michael Wong as a side character that helps both sides, are brushed by at a brisk pace to keep the film moving. It even indicates that perhaps there is a much larger conspiracy on the back end of its plot that is not explored in any real way that doesn’t feel like it’s threading for a possible franchise. Truthfully, there isn’t time for fluff in a film with this much muscle. Although I would be remiss to say that the film’s script doesn’t have its issues or convenient character choices to keep the plot and action powering on, Triple Threat is also a film that knows what it wants to accomplish and focuses on that instead. It crafts characters we care about and then places them in full contact with arrogant and boisterous villains. It lets the cast do the rest. It’s efficient, but it’s also effective.

What Triple Threat accomplishes is that it sets up its plotting and characters to deliver on those promises that it’s casting and choice of director made when it was announced. It delivers on high octane entertainment with some jaw dropping action. The thing about that previous Cannon comparison is that, while the tone certainly comes off as a throwback with its setting and plot, Triple Threat is a film that has the true talent and vision to actually pull off the insane martial arts sequences and explosive action. Jesse V. Johnson has proven himself already to be a cornerstone of the action cinema market, but here he has so many fun things to play with onscreen that you can tell he is having the time of his life creating this film. Whether it’s the great location, the diverse set of action which includes gun battles, street chases, and the extreme martial arts sequences, or the character moments, Johnson is showcasing it all on the screen for the fans. One can tell that he loves the genre as much as we do and that heart and effort is fully on display here.

It certainly helps when Johnson and his crew have this phenomenal cast on hand. Occasionally, it can be problematic when one has too much talent on screen, but the way that the film manages to find a key moment for each of them, if not more, is impressive. Each of the action stars gets to display their own style and screen presence in big ways here and the film feels like it owes it to the fans to deliver on many of the dreams they had once the cast was announced. Did you want to see Iko fight Jeeja? That’s here. Did you feel like maybe we needed a Tiger Chen fight with Bisping? Check. How about Michael Jai White kicking it out on Iko? Oh, if you’re like me then it was the titillating idea that Tony Jaa was going to have a massive brawl with Scott Adkins. The film delivers. Just to add some sweetner, it even lets us have a Tony/Iko vs Adkins taste too. It’s obvious that Johnson has a knack for understanding action because he shoots it the way it should be shown and lets the action stars deliver those cheer worthy moments that the fans want. In my theatrical showing, there were people clapping and cheering at all of the key moments. The woman next to me practically gave a standing ovation to every time Michael Jai White showed up on screen. It’s just that kind of film.

If you’re not a die-hard action fan, then Triple Threat might come across as cheesy or occasionally underwritten. For those of us out there that simply love the art form of the action film, Triple Threat heartedly delivers on all fronts. It’s efficient, charming, and most importantly – hard hitting when it comes to action. This is a film made for action fans by a group of cast and crew that are action fans themselves. The hype is real. Triple Threat delivers.

If anything, the only thing I was disappointed in when I was leaving the theater is that they haven’t announced a sequel yet. I’m a sucker for franchises and Triple Threat is the perfect start to a beautiful one. Let’s make it happen. Triple Threat gets a VOD release later this week from our friends at Well Go USA.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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