Starring: (deep breath) Tiger Chen, Iko Uwais, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Jeeja Yanin, Ron Smoorenburg, Michael Bisping, Celina Jade
Fight Choreography by Tim Man
Directed by Jesse V. Johnson
There is nothing better than to have ‘versus’ hypotheticals with your friends: Bruce Lee versus Jackie Chan with no furniture, and can Donnie Yen take a young Ti Lung in a straight up duel? What’s even more fun is when the stars align and we actually get to see that fight play out on screen. Most of these films can be a bit disappointing, either not delivering the great fights that you imagined in your head, or the stars involved are past their prime (I’m looking at you, Forbidden Kingdom!)
…so thank goodness for Jesse V. Johnson and Tim Man!
Iko Uwais, Tony Jaa, and Tiger Chen star as mercenaries who, after they are betrayed during an attack on a small village, must team up to stop the remaining mercs (Scott Adkins, MJW, Jeeja Yanin, Ron Smoorenborg and Michael Bisping) from killing the daughter of a local Billionaire (Celina Jade) , and getting their revenge… if they can trust each other first…
In many ways this is nearly more of an Iko Uwais film than anything else. He gets the meatiest emotional scenes and is the most mysterious: His character Jaka has his own motives, and while he says he wants the same thing as Payu (Jaa) and Fei Long (Chen) his actions are sometimes counter to their goals. This added layer of “can they trust him or not” adds more suspense to the role. Tiger Chen is much better here than he was in Man of Tai Chi, and now I want to see him get more work. Tony Jaa is equally good as Payu, the merc who wants to make things right. I was really glad to see, that with the main leads their English has improved greatly. This allows them to act more naturally.
However, the great thing about this film is that the folks we normally see as heroes do an equally great job as villains. Scott Adkins is a snake through and through and chews the scenes in a way he hasn’t been able to since the Undisputed series. MJW continues to show his sinister side as the most distrustful of the mercs, and before long he’s proven right. The biggest surprise here is Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate) as the most “green” member of the group. She takes that playful demeanor she’s made a career of and turns it into something far, far more sinister.
Not enough can be said about the directing job Jesse V Johnson does here. He understands exactly what you want to see, and he teases it out expertly, but when it’s time for the payoff he makes sure audiences get it. Every actor is given their moment to shine, both as actors and as martial artists. Tim Man, one of the best in the business, choreographs his fights around the strengths of his actors, and each fight takes a logical conclusion, given the weight and style differences of each fighter, leading to many folks in the theaters nudging their friends and having quick asides like: ” I TOLD you that Jaa move can’t work on MJW!”
And the fights are like mana from heaven. Ever thought about what a fight between Jeeja Yanin and Iko Uwais would look like? How about Tony Jaa versus Scott Adkins? What about Uwais AND Jaa versus Adkins? How about a Smoorenburg versus Uwais fight? You will get darn near every kind of fight permutation you ever wanted to see here, and it’s nothing short of magnificent!
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10
Triple Threat gives you everything you wanted and even some things you didn’t know you wanted. The film brings all of the kicks, punches, and throw downs you could possibly ask for. Sorry, Avengers, but THIS is the ultimate team-up film of 2019!