[Movie Review] Triple Threat (2019)
Thailand, China, USA | Action, Thriller | R | Director: Jesse V. Johnson | Writers: Joey O'Bryan, Fangjin Song, Paul Staheli | Cast: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Hu Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Michael Bisping, Jeeja Yanin, Celina Jade | English, Chinese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia | 96 minutes
'Triple Threat', the latest creation of Jesse V. Johnson, is something that appears like a mini 'The Expendables' but with a cast ensemble that contains performers who are actually at their peak of physicalities and capabilities to wreak havoc. As an action film, the feature succeeds in delivering the essentials which should have been promised by any films under the genre, no more no less. Of course, it's not a downside-free picture but let's break it down one by one. This movie didn't need much effort to hype itself. Back when this project was announced, hardcore actionites were intrigued because of the headliners. The first thought that came to our minds must be 'who wouldn't want to see the hard-hitting Tony Jaa, the phenomenal Iko Uwais, and the elegant Tiger Hu Chen sharing the screen alongside some revered VOD action stars like Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White?'
This story begins when a group of mercenaries led by Devereaux (Michael Jai White) and Joey (Michael Bisping) marches to raid a bunch of rogue foreigners who camped deep in a tropical forest, with the help of two local trackers Payu (Tony Jaa) and Long Fei (Tiger Hu Chen). The purpose is to rescue the group's true leader who's been held captive, the notorious terrorist Collins (Scott Adkins). Jaka (Iko Uwais) has to witness the death of his wife during the attack and vows to get his revenge. Payu and Long Fei, not knowing the true intention of the assault, are double-crossed and left for dead by the group. Following a fatal misunderstanding, Jaka decides to work with Payu and Long Fei in seeking Collins and his fellows. Subsequently, their quest for vengeance turns into another rescue mission after Collins' group was hired by a crime syndicate to hunt down the wealthy Xian (Celina Jade) who intends to bring justice upon the country through the donation of her inheritance money.
The truth is, having an all-star lineup at a director's disposal doesn't guarantee the end result of a movie. It demands a certain degree of proficiency from writing to directing departments in order to balance out the portion among the stars. Johnson, in particular, showcased more than enough directing skills to highlight each of the performer's undisputed talents. In fact, I'm confident enough to say this is his most matured work in terms of crafting and directing action set pieces. Jonathan Hall's cinematography completed a reasonably superb job in capturing most of the pivotal adrenaline-pumping scenes. Even the film editing (done by Matthew Lorentz), albeit playing it too carefully, prospered in adding substantial values needed to make it whole as a prominent visual package.
But, the problem of 'Triple Threat' lies within the script that they offered. It almost feels like they didn't implement enough treatment towards the premise, thus the plot never reaches the expected level of development as evidenced by how the film barely able to carry out its own story from the start until the credit rolls. A relatively brief duration of screentime might play a vital part in regards to this problem. The back and forth relationship between the main guys also looks unnecessarily tortuous at times. Another major and noticeable downside is the dialogue writing. Aside from Scott Adkins, all the other roles are lacking in convincing dialogue. Even though the actors and actresses sought their best to utilize whatever lines that they were given with, some of the spoken interactions are plainly ludicrous. Insertion of a handful of dramas in between the storyline progressions is kind of halting its tension advancement as well.
Let's move on to the casts performance aspect. I've said it once, and I'll say it again a hundred times: one does not simply doubt the charisma of Scott Adkins (he gained my vote to be the next Bruce Wayne — I know it's highly unlikely, but please let a man dream for once). Iko Uwais, despite the fact that most of his powwows aren't nicely written, was given a chance to display more range of emotions compared to what he has shown in any of his previous outings. Tony Jaa and Tiger Hu Chen didn't need to dig deep into their acting closet since their roles aren't the types that require many sentimental plays. Their martial arts skills alone are enough to maintain their on-screen presence. The portrayal of White's cockiness as Devereaux is what gives 'Triple Threat' a more diverse characters depiction. I was hoping that Jeeja Yanin would play a more consequential figure but nonetheless, it's fun to see her running around and getting explosive with her things (literally and figuratively).
The most exciting action stuff of the film comes during the last third of its runtime. There are other enjoyable sequences from the first half such as the early fight between two leads, an illegal underground fighting scene, and the attack on a police station. But a majority of the destruction happening before the last third involves gunfights, so if you're looking for a number of hand-to-hand combats, you have to be patient. It's worth a watch if you really want to see Jaa, Uwais, Chen, Adkins, White, and others duking it out for 96 minutes.
Review written by: Dysan Aufar