Roughly a year ago I wrote an article on rising martial arts actor Iko Uwais. In it, I covered his filmography including upcoming films. One of those is Triple Threat. A movie with an almost A list of martial arts actors. The cast includes Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi), Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite), Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak), Scott Adkins (Boyka: Undisputed), and former UFC Champion Michael Bisping. All and all this should be one of the most entertaining martial arts movies. So is it?
Well, the martial arts sequences are set up so Uwais, Chen, and Jaa fight all the fights. But just like how the cast is a mix of east and west, so is the style of both filming and editing. Over the same fight sequence there will be moments of wide shots that show the actors martial arts ability, then cut close right as the impact happens. So there are times that an overall good fight is undercut by the filming or editing. But for the most part, the fights are enjoyable to watch.
Now, something unique that happens is with the dialogue. The cast is very diverse so expect to be reading subtitled dialogue. You can hear Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, and English. Now when two characters of the same nationality speak to each other they speak in their native tongue, but when two characters from different nationalities speak to each other it’s in English. At first, I thought this was a creative solution to appeal to a Western audience. But it’s not the first time this has happened with a Martial Arts film.
In The Raid 2, there is a scene between an Indonesians, Chinese, and Japanese gang bosses all talking to each other. At first, they speak in their language as each boss has a translator speaking to them via an earpiece. But then they switch to speaking in English so they can all understand. This could be a creative choice to allow a western audience an easier way of watching or simply acting as a way to have international conversations.
But now comes the rather bad news which is the film’s story. Now action movies don’t need complex stories, but it felt that there was too much story happening. While the title of the film should apply to the 6 main action stars fighting, it really feels that the triple threat is happening between the three writers.
Adkins is the leader of a mercenary for where he commands White, Bisping, and others. But the film starts with him being held as a prisoner in an MI 6 black site that is being guarded by Indonesians one of which is Uwais who brings his wife. White and Bisping hire 2 local mercenaries (Jaa and Chen) to guide them to site. Then they assault the site, Uwais’s wife dies, Adkins is rescued, and they blow up the base. This starts Uwais on a quest for revenge.
That is the first 10 minutes of the film. The rest involves betrail, playing both sides, an heiress vowing to fight against crime syndicates, an assassination attempt on said heiress and more. The mess that is the story really takes away from the action set pieces.
While I was hoping for a martial arts version of The Expendables, this did not live up to my expectations. Maybe I put on too high of expectations so I’m being harsher, but there are better martial arts movies on Netflix. Films like Headshot, The Night Comes for Us, The Drunken Master, Kung Fu Hustle, and all three Ip Man are all available on the platform. All of those movies balance story and action. Whereas Triple Threat makes Street Fighter look like an Academy Award film.
With a lack of guidance in the story Triple Threat under deliver a good film. While there are moments of excellent action sequences, there’s not enough to make up for the flaws. Overall I give Triple threat a 2 out of 5.