‘Triple Threat’ review: Uwais, Jaa and Chen carry it

Straight action movies like the ones from the 80s and 90s are hard to come by these days. While Marvel films could be considered action, there are only a few mainstream series that I can confidently say fit the bill. However, action has found success in foreign countries, as well as probably-money-laundering-schemes straight to DVD flicks you’ll swipe past immediately on Netflix. 

“Triple Threat” seems to inhabit this space somewhere in the middle. It is definitely much better than some Steven Seagal Netflix movie you’d cringe incredibly hard at, but it isn’t as good as Wick, or more aptly Iko Uwais’ “The Raid.”  It is an interesting mixture of things, but ends up leaning closer to the straight to DVD than anything. 

Directed by Jesse V. Johnson, (responsible for several VOD action movies starring the incredibly uncharismatic Scott Adkins) “Triple Threat” tells the frankly incredibly juvenile story of Jaka (Iko Uwais), whose wife is killed in a raid by mercenaries (Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, and Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins). Eventually, Jaka finds himself teamed up with two of the mercenaries, Payu and Long Fei (Chen and Jaa), who were betrayed by Devereaux (White), Collins (Adkins), and a few other goons. None of it is interesting, none of it is logical, in unsurprising VOD action fashion, but what brought me to this movie is the leads.

When action movies have terrible plots, the leading protagonist has to be likable and charismatic. Ever since watching “The Raid” over seven years ago, I have been a huge fan of Uwais and his remarkable talent and charisma carries this film. The same goes to Jaa and Chen, and while this is the first film I have seen them in, they are truly fun to watch, just like Uwais. You can  see the work they put into choreography as well.

However, much of the acting besides them is unsurprisingly bad. White, while having charisma, was certainly not as strong as the main three. Adkins can’t seem to either get good material or act with enough charisma to save his life. 

While the acting of the main three mostly makes up for the terrible writing, there is only so much the actors can do to save a film.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure anyone watches movies like these for an amazing plot and well done story. You watch it to see fun action and guys beating each other up, and it delivers. All the fights are extremely well done, with a truly shocking emphasis on gore and violence that seems to only exist in these films and movies like “Hobo with a Shotgun.” It is mostly martial arts at its finest, but the issue is that there isn’t enough of it to make up for the plot.

Other phenomenal movies that have perfect writing and plots (see “The Man From Nowhere”) use action as something cathartic and built up through the plot. While the main focus should be action, it often feels like it wasn’t put first when some decisions were made.

Overall, as an action movie person who is more than willing to see more of Jaa, Uwais and Chen, I had a lot of fun with “Triple Threat.” Other movies of its type outclass it significantly, such as “The Night Comes for Us,” but there are some truly insane moments this film offers that are the best I have seen in an action movie.