Triple Threat, 2019.
Directed by Jesse V. Johnson
Starring Tiger Hu Chen, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Michael Bisping, JeeJa Yanin, Selina Lo, Daniel Whyte, Michael Wong, Ron Smoorenburg, Dominiquie Vandenberg, and Celina Jade
A hit contract is taken out on a billionaires daughter intent on bringing down a major crime syndicate. A down and out team of mercenaries must take on a group of professional assassins and stop them before they kill their target.
Links to on-demand titles for review purposes flood email inboxes daily, and considering we are all only human, it’s understandable why any critic wouldn’t snag every title that came their way. That sentiment is especially true for generic action flicks that give you the whole plot in the logline, but when international martial arts superstars like Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais (I desperately needed a palate cleanser after Mile 22, which he was actually the only decent part of) pop up in the cast list (not to mention other notable names such as Michael Jai White and VOD fan favorite Scott Adkins), well, there are certainly worse movies out there one could tackle.
Directed by stuntman/stunt performer Jesse V. Johnson, Triple Threat disappointingly has little to do with these performers and their characters. For clarification, I knew full well based on a gut feeling that the story to this thing would be straight up nonsense completely superfluous to the hand-to-hand combat everyone wants to see, but I did expect to remember the basics of which star played which character. It’s easier to simply say that each member of the titular triple threat is out for revenge and for different reasons (murdered loved ones and betrayal).
The gist is that a group of mercenaries is hired to take out an influential Chinese businesswoman (Celina Jade) with the funds and caring heart to crack down on the rampant crime prevailing throughout the city. Before that mission is put into motion, Tony Jaa and Tiger Chen happen to be a part of this shady bunch under the impression that they are on a humanitarian mission and about to rescue some captured individuals alongside the carnage (seriously, the first 20 minutes of Triple Threat feel like someone on-set discovered a grenade launcher for the first time and totally lost the ability to resist employing its destruction every five seconds). Naturally, they are doublecrossed, and the wife of Iko Uwais’ character (both prisoners), becomes collateral damage.
It goes without saying, but sooner than later the three cross paths and team up, but not before the script pits them against one another for a few battles before joining forces. Unfortunately, like just about everything else it falls fairly flat thanks to unnecessary midair slow-motion during flying kicks and other such acrobatic motions, poor sound effects, and a lack of intensity/creativity. Throughout the entire 96 minutes, the only thing I will remember is one character dodging a punch and picking up a cinderblock to bash it over someone’s head. For not so positive reasons, I will also remember one character intentionally diving sideways through the air from an alley to land on the hood of a moving vehicle, a stunt that looks so preposterous and unbelievably stupid, that maybe it’s more of what the film needed. Michael Bisping is obviously a talented fighter, but it’s realistically probably asking too much to expect him to hang with someone on the level of Tony Jaa.
Forget that the film hits up every cliché there is for this style of action movie, the frustration comes from how drab and unmemorable the combat sequences are. And on that note, does anyone really turn on a movie with Iko Uwais to see him wield a firearm? The shootouts contain terrible editing, jumping around all over the place, while the fight choreography certainly fares better but still is lacking in entertaining set pieces. It’s also not wise to cross-cut between three different final battles during the climax if they are going to consistently disrupt the flow and cohesion of the overall experience. At least each environment has different lighting to let our eyes quickly process where we are.
Triple Threat is also one of those productions where the filmmakers can’t decide if they want the characters to speak English or another language, constantly switching between the two and sometimes within the same scene. Normally, this is not a problem, but the English performances are absolutely awful (that goes for the mercenaries as well who speak the language as their native tongue). There are only about two instances where the narrative slows things down for some brief character moments, but they are largely unbearable.
For all the disappointment there is still some enjoyable novelty in seeing these actors interact with one another, and at the very least, the filmmakers had the foresight to keep action at the forefront. It’s also worth emphasizing that the one-on-one fight scenes are not necessarily terrible, but they are a far cry from what these talents are capable of pulling off. Triple Threat does have a killer theme blaring over their heroics though, I just wish that theme and these heroics were in a better movie. Wasting just one outstanding performer in a film is a cinematic crime, but three in the same experience where the marketing surrounding it is all about hyping them teaming up? Yikes. The lesson here is that I have to think twice before accepting a screener just because there is a plethora of incredible international talent and that you should follow a similar line of thought if you think about renting this.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com