Triple Threat Delivers in Full Force
The hype felt for this has been palpable. Since Triple Threat was first announced and cast updates began rolling in, it quickly became a veritable “who’s who” of modern-day, international martial arts stars. We had the promise of Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Night Comes for Us), Tony Jaa (Ong Bak, Skin Trade), Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi, House of Fury), Scott Adkins (Undisputed II-IV, Accident Man), Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite, Blood and Bone), Michael Bisping (Den of Thieves, xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate, Raging Phoenix), Ron Smoorenburg (Sultan, Tekken: Kazuya's Revenge), Dominiquie Vandenberg (True Legend, Pit Fighter) and dramatic support from the likes of Celina Jade (Arrow, Wolf Warrior 2), Michael Wong (Nightfall, Beast Cops) and Selina Lo (Boss Level, The Debt Collector). Now that is an ensemble.
Yet with growing (more like escalating) anticipation, there must have been a real sense of pressure and responsibility from those at the helm, not least of all for director Jesse V. Johnson (The Debt Collector, Accident Man, Savage Dog) who had the complex task of crafting a cohesive and well functioning story while giving adequate screen time to every big star in this ensemble, usually a lead in their own right, and meeting fan expectations along the way. It’s a fine balance and a tall order for anyone.
Now, the time has finally come, they pulled it off and what’s all the more impressive is that Triple Threat absolutely delivers on its promise and rightly earns it's place as the martial arts movie event of the year. Even with many more martial arts movies pending release in 2019, few, if any, will match the sheer vision, scale and combined star power of this.
The story opens with a group of mercenaries breaking their leader from captivity in the jungle, where they also massacre a village and unknowingly leave one man alive. The survivor, our reluctant hero, returns seeking vengeance for the death of his wife and teams with a pair of guides who had been duped into helping the assassins during their mission. Together, the trio tracks down the mercs, now pursuing a hit contract on a wealthy heiress leading an anti-corruption campaign in a crime-infested city. Our heroes set their sights on keeping her alive while bringing down this common enemy.
With a lean running time, the story and setup is light and swiftly moves from one exhilarating action set piece to the next. What we get is virtually wall-to-wall fights, shoot-outs and chases, with an impressively varied set of action, choreography and environments to keep things fresh, never feeling flat or repetitious. One critique is that it would have been nice to see a little more drama and character development, ultimately raising the action stakes and subsequent pay off, but for most audiences of this type of film, it will be a very minor point.
There are quite literally too many fight scenes to mention but a firm favourite will have to be Adkins vs. Uwais & Jaa which is a fanboy’s dream come true. Fight choreographer Tim Man (frequent collaborator of Adkins and Johnson) has done a hugely impressive job of crafting and weaving immense variety throughout a film where the action is constant. No easy feat and this factor can’t really be praised enough.
What’s interesting is that Triple Threat very much feels like an international film, perhaps made for the overseas market more than the west, but will play well to any die-hard action fan globally, with drama and dialogue kept lean and the universal language of action doing most of the talking. In a refreshing twist, our Asian stars (Uwais is Indonesian, Jaa is Thai and Chen is Chinese) play the good guys, united to fight a common enemy, while the (mostly) westerners are the bad guys who embrace their larger-than-life, colourful villainy. Adkins and Jai White, in particular, seem to be having the time of their lives becoming the bad guys you’ll love to hate.
One of the most impressive elements is how each star shines and gets their hero, or villain, moment in the spotlight. Uwais, Jaa, Chen, Adkins, Jai White, Bisping, Yanin - they all have their fanbases who expect to see a certain level of physical performance, but also screen time. Each actor is given a platform for memorable fights, character moments and an opportunity to hold centre stage. The only star who felt slightly under-utilised here is Jeeja Yanin, who gets a few great scenes, but it would’ve been nice to see a little more from her. However, she does get an epic final sequence (no spoilers).
Especially in recent years, pure physical action cinema (ie non CGI, blockbuster-driven) has been relegated, for the most part, to the indie world. Simultaneously, the DTV star “bait and switch” trope has also lowered the bar and earned cynicism by seeing bankable stars, often past their best, showing up on a poster or DVD cover to sell a film but rack up only a short amount of screen time. Here, both recent trends are shattered. It’s a slick, high production value action outing shot for the widescreen format, and we’re treated to a whole roster of contemporary genre stars, still at the top of their game, and well utilised throughout the entire film. For anyone who misses the style of unashamedly tough, visceral action from the 1980’s or 90’s, even back then we weren’t spoiled this much, and the truth is that it may not happen again. Triple Threat demands and deserves to be seen on the big screen, so don’t miss it.
North American fans, see it in cinemas for one night only on 19th March and on digital download from 22nd March. Book tickets here
UK fans, catch the UK premiere at Fighting Spirit Film Festival. Find out more and book tickets here