Friday, March 15, 2019

'Triple Threat' (2018) Movie Review

one man punches another

There’s a scene in Triple Threat where Tony Jaa fights Scott Adkins, then Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais fight Scott Adkins, then Tony Jaa fights Scott Adkins solo again. A scene. Actually, not even a scene, it’s a sequence within a scene. If that’s not enough to convince you to watch a movie, keep reading, I’ll try harder.


In addition to Jaa, Uwais, and Adkins, Triple Threat collects most of the other top cinematic martial arts practitioners currently working today under one banner. This includes Tiger Hu Chen (Man of Tai Chi), JeeJaa Yanin (Chocolate), Michael Jai White (Blood and Bone), and former UFC champ Michael Bisping (xXx: Return of Xander Cage). Marko Zaror, Yayan Ruhian, and Joe Taslim must have been busy. 

Two men fight in a jungle

The plot is little more than an excuse to throw these badasses at one another and let them duke it out for our amusement. For instance, Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais throw down for the first time within ten minutes—we also get Uwais versus Chen, Yanin versus Uwais, Chen versus Bisping, Jai White versus various players, and more or less every possible combination punching and kicking each other in the face. Every aspect of this movie serves as a delivery system for rib-punching, face-kicking brawls. As you might imagine given this collection of talent, the action more than delivers on a thrilling, visceral level.

Which is good, because the narrative is garbled nonsense gibberish. When a billionaire heiress (Celina Jade, Arrow) becomes the targets of an international crime syndicate, a team of unlikely mercenaries (Jaa, Uwais, and Chen) must team up to stop the team of assassins hired to kill her (Adkins, Jai White, Bisping, Yanin). 

Three men with guns and body armor

Sounds simple enough, right? And more than adequate connective tissue for a martial arts revenge actioner serving up one tussle after another. But the plot is absolutely one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. It’s a convoluted mess of double and triple and maybe even quadruple crosses. The characters somehow take the worst plan you’ve ever heard and pile it on top of an even worse strategy, multiple times. And the longer it goes, the more complicated, illogical, and absurd it becomes. Uneasy alliances and unlikely team ups are SOP for this kind of movie, but the script plops down the most asinine bullshit I’ve ever seen.

But lucky for everyone, story is not why anyone wants to watch Triple Threat. Veteran stunt performer and coordinator Tim Man (Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, Ong-Bak 2, and tons more) delivers phenomenal fight choreography, executed to perfection by the insanely skilled cast. Director Jesse V. Johnson (Savage Dog) has become the go-to for this type of gritty, DTV-style action and knows well enough to stand back and let these folks do their work. The level of brutality doesn’t touch things like The Night Comes for Us, but the fighting skill on display is superlative and second to none.

Iko Uwais fights Tiger Chen

The acting isn’t particularly great—none of these people are most known as master thespians.  It’s low-budget shines through from time to time—at one point, Adkins wears a terrible wig that makes him look like a cartoon cavemen. But Triple Threat knows precisely what it is and what its audience wants, and it comes fast and furious. For all the questionable motivations and head-scratching decisions characters make, it does not skimp on the on-screen fisticuffs, which more than deliver on the inherent potential. Come for the action, stay for the fights, and try to ignore the rest—if you can accomplish that, Triple Threat is exactly the movie it promises to be. Thank god for the little things. [Grade: B]

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