For action movie fans, Jesse V. Johnson’s Triple Threat must be one of the most anticipated movies of the year. It assembles a dream cast of the best movie fighters and action-flick tough guys currently working – Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Night Comes for Us), Tony Jaa (Ong Bak, Warrior King), Tiger Hu Chen (Kung Fu Man, Man of Tai Chi), Michael Jai White (Spawn, Undisputed 2, Dragged Across Concrete) and prolific action movie dynamo Scott Adkins (the Undisputed franchise, The Debt Collector, Doctor Strange). It divides them into good guys and bad guys and pits them against each other. Simples. Triple Threat is basically Ocean’s Eleven for fight movie connoisseurs and direct-to-video action fiends.
Triple Threat kicks off with a mercenary team on a jungle incursion, attacking a heavily guarded compound. The film gives a solid tip of the hat to the opening of Predator as the team uses its bloody, unsubtle M.O. to extract mysterious prisoner Collins (Scott Adkins). Meanwhile, left for dead in the jungle, Jaka (Iko Uwais) vows revenge on the mercenaries who destroyed his life in the process. Back in the city, the mercenary team is revealed to be a criminal gang hired to assassinate Xiao Xian (Celina Jade), a rich philanthropist dedicated to using her considerable inheritance to wiping out crime and corruption. Jaka teams up with ex-gang members Payu (Tony Jaa) and Long Fei (Tiger Hu Chen) to stop them. Cue several double crosses, some kinetic fisticuffs, and a lot of guns blazing.
Triple Threat is a solid action flick with some pretty decent production value and a very watchable cast. It’s certainly the best movie Adkins, Jai White and Johnson have done in a while, but although it’s pretty good fun overall, it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its considerable parts. It suffers largely similar problems to the Expendables series, in that there are too many characters all vying for screen time and the chance to display their abilities that in the end no one gets a big chance to shine. Like a true compromise, nobody really gets what they want. It also means the likes of JeeJa Yanin and action up-and-comer Michael Bisping are largely overlooked.
Also, the majority of the hand-to-hand combat is reserved for the end, which is understandable if you’re saving the best for last, but if you have the likes of Iko Uwais, Tony Jaa, Tiger Hu Chen and Scott Adkins in a film together, let me assure you that absolutely no one wants to see them firing guns when they could be beating the tar out of each other.
Still, that’s not to say Triple Threat isn’t entertaining. Far from it. We do get some early punch-up action as Uwais, Chen and Jaa get to work in an illegal fighting pit, there’s an exciting raid on a police station, and Adkins makes for a bloody great villain.
Triple Threat reunites Adkins with stunt coordinator-turned-director Jesse V. Johnson, with whom he has worked on Accident Man, The Debt Collector and Savage Dog, amongst others. All of their collaborations are worth a look, but Triple Threat represents their best team up so far. Prior to this, I’d say the pick of the bunch is likely to be Savage Dog (on Netflix ANZ right HERE),which although flawed, overcomes a serious, po-faced demeanour and a terrible voiceover to become a rather entertaining, albeit mean-spirited watch. Bad guys get pulped in true Paul Verhoeven style and the film has the most spectacularly deranged ending this side of Witchfinder General.
Probably best known for his role as Russian prison thug Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed movies, Scott Adkins is improving with every film and his physical prowess is second to none. His turn here as bad guy Collins is an undoubted highlight. He’s an English geezer, sounding more like he should be duffing people up outside a shit pub on a Saturday night, than dabbling in international terrorism. He also gets all the best dialogue. Dumb as a bag of hammers, but undeniably fun:
“They’re from a local village”
“A local village in fucking ninja warrior land?”
There’s some Grade-A playground trash talk, as he invites the Triple Threat of Uwais, Jaa and Chen to “come an ‘ave a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough.”
The rest of the cast is equally watchable and is Triple Threat’s obvious strong point. Tiger Hu Chen is well known for his stunt work on The Matrix and Kill Bill – famously teaching Keanu Reeves on the former – and proves he is a more than capable screen presence here. Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa solidify the mix with their expected charisma and physicality. While Michael Jai White is reliable as ever and has the acting chops to class the joint up a bit.
The action movie bar has quite recently been set, and set high, by Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes For Us, and while Triple Threat doesn’t quite soar to those heights, it’s important to remember that very few films do. What Triple Threat does do is provide solid, appealing action. Even if it might not be everything we want from a film with this calibre of cast, there’s really not much to complain about. Triple Threat is good, solid, unsophisticated fun.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★☆☆
‘Triple Threat’ arrives on Australia DVD and Digital on May 29.