Friday, 29 March 2019

Triple Threat (2019)

Triple threat? I guess this refers to the heroic trio of Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen, and Iko Uwais. Sounds cool, I wonder if they came up with the cool title first and then wrote a story around it?

This movie starts off very much in the same vein as the Arnie classic 'Predator'. A group of elite mercs in the depths of the sweaty Thailand jungles closing in on an enemy base. Their apparent mission? To rescue a prisoner. The team? Deveraux (Michael Jai White), Joey (Michael Bisping), Mook (Jeeja Yanin), Steiner (Ron Smoorenburg), and Dom (Dominique Vandenberg). Hired for assistance are local mercs Long Fei (Tiger Chen) and Payu (Tony Jaa). The team find the base and proceed to eliminate everyone...just like in 'Predator' (heck Steiner even looks like Hawkins).

Little do Fei and Payu know, they have been tricked by the others and have rescued a deadly terrorist called Collins (Scott Adkins) and killed a whole load of innocent people. At the same time Jaka (Iko Uwais), a soldier at the base, gets fudged up badly and loses his wife in the process. So the bad guys leave Fei, Payu, and Jaka for dead and continue with the rest of their dastardly plan. And that plan consists of assassinating Miss Xian (Celina Jade), a rich businesswoman who plans to donate a shit load of money to charity in the city (somewhere in Asia) to help clean up the corruption (not sure how that works but whatever). Apparently they needed Collins to achieve this?

And this is all at the behest of yet another evil female boss called Su Feng. She spends all her time atop a luxurious skyscraper donned in expensive attire drinking fine wine. She's basically a criminal overlord but we get no real idea as to what she actually does.

So the plot is fast and loose here. I'm sure there are reasons for this that and the other but essentially its a bit of a guessing game because really there could numerous reasons and nothing is fully explained or expanded upon. Take breaking out Collins for instance. Was that just something his team wanted to do or was that a specific order from Su Feng for her assassination plans later on? Could be either. But Collins and co are now after Miss Xian and Fei and Payu because they are witnesses to the jungle mass murder.

Later on Jaka sees Fei and Payu taking part in some illegal street fighting. So he challenges Payu and loses. Payu and Fei recognise him and help him out. Jaka then proceeds to get them both drunk so he can run off and report them to the police...for the illegal fighting? Not sure but armed police turn up so whatever he accused them of it was bad! Later on, Collins and co botch their assassination attempt on Xian and she ends up running to the police station where Fei and Payu are. Collins and co storm the police station killing everyone. Jaka pops up in a deus ex machina moment and claims he got Fei and Payu arrested to lure Collins out (because he wants revenge for the death of his wife). But really? Jaka got Fei and Payu arrested just to lure out Collins? Surely there was an easier way? Especially as the duo were on his side. Seemed like a long risky shot to me.

From that point on the movie becomes a long chase sequence as Jaka, Payu, and Fei must protect Xian from Collins and his team, but all three also want revenge. The action set pieces are definitely very slick and have clearly had some money spent on them. This is not your average straight to DVD action schlock. The assassination attempt on Xian was impressive in a 'Heat' type of way, if ludicrous. The bad guys jump out and spray their targets with bullets killing everyone but their intended target. But at least they used real squibs, mostly.

Every character gets their time to shine when it comes to fisticuffs, which is what it's all about. I think Jaa and Uwais get to rumble with most of the bad guys at some point. The fights are naturally well choreographed and shot beautifully highlighting all the moves clearly. Of course every character is a martial arts expert to some degree which is nonsense but hey, look at the product. All these movies are essentially martial arts sequences with a wrap around plot.

But it is interesting to watch these guys use their unique skills against each other, glossy mixed martial arts indeed. Although Jaa, Uwais, and Chen especially don't really look like they'd last very long against Adkins, White, or Bisping. Chen looks like Lloyd Christmas. I did find it amusing that in most fights the bad guys are wearing bulletproof vests/body armour and yet, apparently, they still feel the impact from the good guys blows. Again, I know the product but guys, come on, a little sense please.

Yep so everyone knows what to expect. Generally most folk who watch this will be martial arts fans and with that I'm sure they will enjoy. Myself being an old JCVD movie fan and growing up with the 'classics' in the genre this doesn't really offer much. The acting is bad all round of course. Alas Adkins has that huge issue of having the bod and moves, but the looks of your average English bloke next door type. He literally looks like the guy who turns up to give your boiler its annual maintenance check.

But the real problem here (and with most modern martial arts movies) is the lack of real story and character development. All these modern martial arts movies feel like stunt shows, showcases for flashy moves and nothing else. Back in the day these movies were legitimately solid action flicks that happen to have some ass kickin' martial arts in them, mostly. This is known as the Asian Expendables, which is cool but also kinda the problem. That said, this is easily the best martial arts flick in recent years.


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