Kevin: Forget about B.C. vs. A.D., as of last Friday I now divide the historical calendar into two eras: B.T.T. (before I knew “Triple Threat” existed) and A.T.T. (after I saw the “Triple Threat” trailer). The reason “Triple Threat” has gone from a movie I didn’t know about a week ago to my most anticipated action film of 2018 is simple: it’s a once-in-lifetime, “Expendables”-level gathering of some of the most exciting and dynamic martial arts action stars working today. Unfortunately most of them have not gotten the recognition they deserve – since their incredible skills aren’t as in-demand in a landscape dominated by PG-13 comic book films – but once you’ve seen their previous work you’ll be as excited as I am for “Triple Threat”:
The presence of Indonesian silat master Iko Uwais just by itself would make “Triple Threat” a must-see, as his jaw-droppingly brutal fight scenes in 2012’s “The Raid” reminded audiences and filmmakers that – despite what the “Bourne” movies might contend – it’s a lot cooler to actually see what the hell is going on during an action scene. Uwais has continued finding good showcases for his skills in movies like “The Raid 2” and “Headshot,” which TGD reviewed back in March and which can also be found on Netflix. To give you an idea of those skills, here is a snippet from his debut film “Merantau,” directed by “The Raid” helmer Gareth Evans:
A decade ago Tony Jaa would easily be the biggest draw in “Triple Threat” for anyone who had seen his breakout 2003 film “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior,” in which Jaa combined the intensity of Jet Li with the playful nimbleness of Jackie Chan:
Jaa followed that up with “The Protector,” which featured an astonishing nearly four-minute-long fight scene filmed in one take:
But just when he appeared to be on the cusp of international stardom, Jaa went a little nutty, directing two sequels to “Ong-Bak” that were set several centuries in the past and had nothing to do with the original, while allegedly fleeing the set and going into hiding for two months mid-shoot. He then announced his retirement from films to become a Buddhist monk, but I guess no one can say no to Dolph Lundgren, because he resurfaced in 2014 in the entertaining Lundgren-directed “Skin Trade” (available on Netflix along with another good Jaa showcase, “Kill Zone 2”). Jaa is also a great actor, as he fought Paul Walker twice in “Furious 7” and had to pretend that he couldn’t just knock out the pretty boy actor with one kick.
Tiger Chen is probably the least well-known star of “Triple Threat,” mainly since the bulk of his work has been as a fight choreographer and stunt double on movies like “Kill Bill” and “The Matrix.” But his former martial arts student Keanu Reeves repaid Chen in 2013 by putting him in front of the camera in his directorial debut “Man of Tai Chi,” in which Chen is featured in a number of memorable fight sequences (including against both Reeves and, in a brief appearance, by Iko Uwais). As TGD noted in February, while “Man of Tai Chi” drags in spots and is more overly serious than it perhaps should be, from a pure action standpoint it is up there with “The Raid” and “John Wick” films in terms of dynamic and well-staged fight choreography:
You’d probably know Scott Adkins best from his appearance as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s henchman in “The Expendables 2,” even if his climactic fight against Jason Statham was a poor demonstration of his skills (due to scheduling issues the two stars reportedly had only two days to film the fight). While perhaps not the best works of cinema ever created, two of his films available on Netflix – “Hard Target 2” and “Close Range” – are still entertainingly good examples of the British-born star’s impressive physical abilities:
Although he’s had small roles in films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and Kevin Costner’s “Criminal,” Adkins’ name has also become synonymous with reliably well-made Direct-to-Video films which oftentimes put the big studio output to shame in the action department, including “Ninja” and “Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear,” “Undisputed” 2 and 3, and “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning,” the fourth entry in the Van Damme franchise, which amazingly combines horror, spectacular action, and interesting philosophical questions about the nature of man (I’m being totally serious, and yes it’s pretty amazing).
Michael Jai White
Michael Jai White is probably the most recognizable of the “Triple Threat” cast, even if he also probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his versatility. First noticed for his portrayal of Mike Tyson in a 1995 HBO movie, White later portrayed Spawn on the big screen, co-starred with Van Damme in “Universal Solider: The Return,” dueled with Steven Seagal using paper cutters as swords in “Exit Wounds,” and had an unfortunate encounter with The Joker in “The Dark Knight.” But like Adkins, DTV has been the best place to see White in action, in movies such as “Undisputed 2,” “Never Back Down 2,” “Skin Trade” and “Falcon Rising” (both available on Netflix), and probably the best of the bunch, “Blood and Bone”:
But White isn’t just a brutal fighter, he’s also a talented writer and gifted comedian, as anyone who has seen his 2009 blacksploitation parody “Black Dynamite” can attest (and seriously, if you haven’t seen that yet go do so now, it’s hilarious).
Who is Michael Bisping, you may ask? Beats me, I’ve never heard of him, some sort of UFC fighter apparently, I’m guessing he’s had a lot of time in the octagon just based on his ears alone. But if he can hold his own among the rest of the cast of “Triple Threat” then who knows, he may just be the next action star of tomorrow. Either way I can’t wait to find out when “Triple Threat” comes out, reportedly some time in early 2018.