By: John M Jerva
Back in 2019, director Jesse V. Johnson delivered one of the best action films in a long time as the Expendables of the East arrived in Triple Threat. The movie which originally started off as The Makeshift Squad which was an original concept of martial arts star Tiger Hue Chen brought together some of the most explosive martial arts talent the industry had to offer. The initial concept was to team Chen up with other Asian action powerhouses in Thai action Star Tony Jaa and Indonesian whirlwind Iko Uwais.
For whatever reason, that initial concept never happened but that was a good thing as the project morphed in the film we know today…Triple Threat. The initial three stars were still in place but the concept changed and stunt maestro turned action filmmaker Jesse V. Johnson was brought on board to organize this epic merging of martial arts action stars.
After Johnson came in, the film took off and western martial arts film pros including British bruiser Scott Adkins, multiple black belt stylist Michael Jai White and UFC champion Michael Bisping were enlisted to play the worthy antagonists to our heroic trio. Other genre stars like Chocolate’s JeeJa Yanin and veteran action actor Ron Smoorenburg were also hired to round out the deadly mercenary team. The stage was set for a true martial arts type Expendables film that would make fans salivate.
The movie told the story of mercenaries Payu and Long Fei, played by Jaa and Chen respectively, who are betrayed on a humanitarian mission which is anything but. Their team consisting of White’s Deveraux and Bisping’s Joey along with Mook (JeeJa Yanin) and Steiner (Smoorenburg) are really there to free ruthless terrorist Collins, played with ferocious tenacity by Adkins, from a secret MI6 camp.
Now freed, Collins and his team are hired to exterminate Chinese philanthropist Xiao Xian (Celina Jade) who threatens to eradicate organized crime in the city of Maha Jaya. Payu and Long Fei, who want revenge for the betrayal, reluctantly become body guards for Xian and they team up with Jaka to stop Collins and his mercenary crew. What follows is endless rounds of ammunition spent combined with signature bone breaking martial arts beatdowns from some of he finest action talent working in the industry today.
Upon release, Triple Threat was a success with fans as it had a limited one night only theatrical debut here in the states followed by its home video debut after first premiering in China. Some fans felt that the movie didn’t reach the heights of action bliss that it should have with the talent involved but a majority of genre faithful, like myself, soaked up every minute of the martial action Battle Royale that was on display with expertly choreographed fight sequences from action cinema’s top fight director Tim Man.
I for one can’t see what naysayers did as the finale alone was everything action aficionados could possibly hope for. Let’s go over the score card shall we for those keeping score at home.
In the climax alone, you have Iko Uwais versus Michael Jai White at the same time Tiger Chen is taking on Michael Bisping and then the pinnacle of action greatness as you get Scott Adkins versus Tony Jaa which transforms into Adkins in a two on one matchup with Jaa and Iko Uwais and finally Adkins and Jaa throwing down again for the finishing touch. Can you keep up? That’s just the finale. I didn’t even bring up the rest of the movie. Did I mention that the shot of Adkins doing a jump spin back kick into Jaa while Uwais hits Adkins with a flying kick of his own at the same time is nothing short of brilliant? Yeah it is.
In my initial review, which you can see here, I wrote that Triple Threat was “the bullet riddled, fisticuffs filled action epic we have been waiting for” and also “the Holy Grail of action movies.” Yes I loved it. The action talent involved delivered as promised and yes it’s not The Raid which seems to be the one film that all other martial arts films are measured on these days but Johnson and crew brought us one blood soaked, bone breaking love letter to watch over and over again.
The action in the film’s 96 minute running time is relentless and it’s old school, throwback action of the highest caliber. Johnson makes sure that all the set pieces have practical effects along with some gloriously bloody scenes of traditional blood squibs used to full effect and enough firepower and explosions for two movies. Johnson also knows how to shoot action and each scene is perfectly executed with long takes and angle changes and edits that don’t sabotage the adrenaline on screen. With all the talk of shaky cam and quick edits these days, here’s a film that hits you over the head with coherent brutality of the highest order.
The stunt work and fight action are the real draw here and Man aptly coordinates the chaos with flair and gives each star their chance to shine. Yes some of the supporting players like Yanin and Smoorenburg don’t have as much screen time but everyone is included in the movie’s endless barrage of fists and feet delivered with extreme choreography that is elite.
Tiger Chen was recently a guest on Scott Adkins’ in-depth YouTube show The Art of Action and he made the announcement that a sequel is definitely in the works and is in the early writing stages.
Chan elaborated that he’s working on a script that will satisfy all involved with the direction the sequel is going and wants it to be perfect before anything else. Anyway you look at it, a sequel is in it’s early stages and that’s a good thing for fans. Hopefully more traction on the project picks up soon.
Check back here in the near future for my thoughts and ideas on a sequel for the movie.
Overall, Triple Threat is now a few years old and it is a true martial arts classic that will stand the test of time. It’s got everything fans could want in an action film and the star power delivered the goods. It’s 96 minutes of fan service and is equal parts shoot ‘em up and empty handed fight brilliance with a deadly cast that are on top of their game. This is essential action in it’s purest form.