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Triple Threat (2019), this is The Expendables (2010) of Asian martial arts movie stars.

May 29, 2019

MY CALL: The Expendables (2010) brought our favorite action stars together on one screen. And like The Expendables (2010), this movie was a precious experience but the cast was far better than the content. MOVIES LIKE Triple Threat: For truly great Asian martial arts and/or gritty hard-R crime action, aim for Hard-Boiled (1992), Ong-Bak (2003), The Protector (2005), Undisputed 2 (2006), Blood and Bone (2009), The Raid: Redemption (2011) , The Raid 2 (2014), Kill Zone 2 (2015) and The Night Comes for Us (2018); followed by Kill Zone (2005), Chocolate (2009), Skin Trade (2014), Boyka: Undisputed IV (2016) and Paradox (2017; aka Sha Po Lang 3).

When a wealthy heiress Xiao Xian (Celina Jade; Wolf Warrior 2, Skin Trade, Arrow, The Man with the Iron Fists) is marked for death, a team of mercenaries band together to combat the assassins out to kill her. The bad guy assassins include Deveraux (Michael Jai White; Skin Trade, Blood and Bone, Undisputed 2, Accident Man), Mook (JeeJa Yanin; The Protector 2, The Kick, Raging Phoenix, Chocolate), Collins (Scott Adkins; Boyka: Undisputed IV, Doctor Strange, Ninja: Shadow of a TearThe Expendables 2Universal Solder: Day of ReckoningEl GringoAssassination Games, Hard Target 2) and Joey (Michael Bisping; Den of Thieves, xXx: Return of Xander Cage).

Our good guys who unite to combat the team of double-crossing mercenary assassins are Payu (Tony Jaa; Paradox: Sha Po Lang 3, Ong-Bak, The Protector, Skin Trade, Kill Zone 2, Furious 7), Long Fei (Tiger Hu Chen; Man of Tai Chi, John Wick: Chapter 3) and Jaka (Iko Uwais; The Night Comes for Us, The Raid: Redemption, Merantau, Beyond Skyline).

At this point I feel the need to pause. If the cast alone hasn’t excited you about this movie, then you definitely shouldn’t watch it. Not simply because it’s an all-star martial arts cast. But because the cast felt under-utilized.

The writing is… not good. Hahaha. Not sure what you expected. But I was not expecting numerous attempts (written in for Michael Jai White) to capture Schwarzeneggerian one-liners and Clint Eastwood-ish veteran-to-rookie comments. And like a Schwarzenegger-era action movie, there is no shortage of exaggerated characters, cigars at times when no one would be smoking cigars, and impressive pyrotechnics. Like a fiery pinata convention—set-destroying gunfights, blood-spewing exit wounds and dusty explosions abound.

Director Jesse V. Johnson (The Debt Collector, Accident Man, The Fifth Commandment) is no stranger to gritty crime films, martial arts movies or the regular use of stunt-fighter extraordinaire Scott Adkins. With a sunt-heavy resume himself, Johnson delivers exciting combat.

The action in this movie is brutal, but not to such sensationalized degree as The Night Comes for Us (2018)—in which the camera fawned over every grueling moment at the most visceral angles. Still, though, this is brutal. Even if brutality is not the focus of the shot, I will admonish that, at one point, a bad guy explodes on-screen into a gloriously gooey mess. One abruptly quick throat-cut early in the movie had me shocked and scrambling for the remote to hit rewind.

Our first real martial arts exchange is between Tony Jaa and Iko Iwais. It was very brief, but with it I found great comfort in the action photography, the (perhaps complete) lack of wirework and unchoppy editing. When we later find our mercenaries in a local Asian fighting arena making some quick cash, we get a better taste of the action-style of this film, which is highly practical and makes no superheroes of its martial artists. At times you may miss the Tasmanian Devil-like whirlwinds of somersaults, corkscrew flairs, 20-foot leaps, aerial cartwheels and jump spin 720 hook kicks. But this movie makes these men appear a more credibly outstanding. So you’ll be very entertained. You just won’t be screaming at the screen like you were when you watched The Night Comes for Us (2018), The Raid: Redemption (2011) , The Raid 2 (2014) or Kill Zone 2 (2015).

That said, there are not as many hand-to-hand fights as you were probably expecting, and they are also much shorter than you probably wanted. We do see Iwais fight Jaa, Chen, Yanin, and Jai White; and then Adkins vs Jaa, Chen/Iwais vs Jai White, and Jaa/Iwais vs Adkins. They’re all “very good” fights. But none of them spectacular. You’ll gasp and say “awesome”, but you won’t lose your mind and get up out of your seat like watching a half-court shot as the clock runs out.

This wasn’t epic… but it was very good. I recommend it, but I won’t scream for you to buy it as I would for The Night Comes for Us (2018), The Raid: Redemption (2011) or Kill Zone 2 (2015).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2019 9:39 am

    I love the wig picture!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      May 29, 2019 10:00 am

      I included that just for you! Looks like he’s trying out for a Street Fighter role as Blanka.

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