Instead of ending up being a crowd-pleaser, Triple Threat only comes as a crowd-teaser.
Triple Threat deliberately engineers a fictional Southeast Asian country called Maha Jaya—which basically is Thailand but with extremely large China influence comprising of tycoons and cartels, backed by Indonesian mercenaries—only to allow the three leads: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Tiger Chen speaking roles in their native language. Strange as it may sound, but at some points, the made-up setting becomes a reasonable venue to showcase a showdown between glorified Muay Thai, Pencak Silat and Kung Fu against current B-movie actioner stars consisting of Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Michael Bisping.
The plot is rather ambitious than compelling. It involves a Chinese philanthropist’s daughter, Xian (Celina Jade) intending to donate his father’s inheritance to bring down cartels and crime organizations. That action signifies that Maha Jaya possibly suffers more from criminal activity than poverty; why she refrained from doing the charity work instead is unknown. Her plan obviously lures the cartels out, a pissed-off crime-lady hires a team of Western mercenary to kill Xian before the money ever comes. There’s where the story begins.
The Western mercenary, which includes Deveraux (Jai White), Joey (Bisping), Mook (Thai actress, Jeeja Yanin) and some others, trick two local mercenaries, Payu (Jaa) and Long Fei (Chen) to track down an Indonesian mercenary camp deep in the forest, where Jaka (Uwais) lives and where Collins, the Western mercenary leader (Adkins) is held captive. During the raid, Jaka’s wife is killed, probing him to avenger her; meanwhile, Payu and Logng Fei are double-crossed. The three are cosmically entangled although their involvement with each other is kind fuzzy. As the Western mercenaries are hunting Xian down, the so-called triple threat are on their way to stop them with their own motivation.
Triple Threat seems to be making a complex B-movie bonanza full of brutal action sequences, goofy one-liners and stock characters which remind us of 80s DTV actioners. At first, it seems that the filmmakers are adept in staging action movies. The camera moves fluidly in gun standoffs or in bare-fight; and, most importantly, the actors really know how to kick real arse. At least, it’s not some geri-actioner utopia where faded stars assemble and try to punch some big baddie to remember the past glory by. This one has a real urgency and potential to please action-flick fans. Only, Triple Threat, despite the explosive build-ups, barely pulls the potential together. Instead of ending up being a crowd-pleaser, it only comes as a crowd-teaser.
Audiences come to watch Triple Threat with a high expectation of watching a high-concept action movies, gearing up with contemporary genre-breaking stars, only to find it anticlimactic. There’s never been a triple threat, although at some points, Jaa, Uwais and Chen respectively showcases their individual prowess. I personally expect the finale to be a minimum thirty minute brawl between Jaa, Uwais and Chen against Adkins, Jai White and Bisping; full of blood, broken bones, and, even, body counts. Yet, the fight never happens. That’s the most important message.
Triple Threat (2019)
Action, Crime Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson Written by: Joey O’Bryan, Fangjin Song, Paul Staheli Starred by: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Michael Bisping, Jeeja Yanin Runtime: 96 mins