Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: "Triple Frontier" is a star-studded, thrill ride

Triple Frontier Review
Its been interesting to see Netflix grow and evolve as a platform over the last couple of years. In the beginning, when these streaming services were still coming into their own, the original content was mediocre at best. Sure, Netflix produced some great television shows, but their movies were items purchased at film festivals, typical festival fare. Who would have thought in just a few years, they'd fund some major motion pictures, but also get some of their content nominated for major awards in the yearly circuit. As these streaming services continue to grow, they will continue to become an interesting alternative to going to the theater. I love Steven Spielberg, but I wish he'd be willing to work around Netflix, instead trying to sabotage them.

In just the last few months, Netflix has boomed with their movies. I know there is a wide fan base for "Bright," I just wished I liked the final result as much as I liked the original script I read. But some key changes to the final film took it from "fun urban fantasy" to "generic urban fantasy." I do wish David Ayers and his team luck on the sequel, and there is no denying that a potential franchise is a big deal for a streaming service. Then last year, we got "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" and "Roma." Not only did those films get nominated for Oscars, but "Roma" actually won some. Again, another big deal for a streaming service. To continue their appeal, its a good thing we are getting something like "Triple Frontier." Its a star-studded thrill ride. A big, fun action movie that relies on its cast, instead of nostalgia or being an adaptation of something else.

The film revolves around five former Special Forces operatives who all seem to be down on their luck now that they are out of the service. Of course, they are all so cool, that they all have nicknames for each other. There's Redfly (Ben Affleck) who is struggling to provide for his teenage daughter. There's Pope (Oscar Isaac) who works with Mexican police on some dangerous raids. There's Ironhead (Charlie Hunnan) who became a motivational speaker. There's Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund) a cage fighter who I guess is too cool to have a nickname. Finally, there is Catfish (Pedro Pascal) a former pilot who's not up to much. At the beginning of the movie, we see Pope assist the Mexican police in apprehending some dangerous drug dealers. After a big bust, a woman linked to the drug dealers named Yovanna (Adria Arjona) asks Pope for help smuggling her and her brother out of the country in exchange for intel on a big dealer named Lorea. Since all of Pope's colleagues are down on their luck, he recruits them to not only take out Lorea, but steal his money.

Pope's friends reluctantly agree, and before they know it, they are down in South America. They easily kill Lorea and extract his money. They find way more than they thought, and they try to steal as much of it as they can. Literally, more than they can carry. It may sound like comedy, but the film is rich in drama. It doesn't become a cat-and-mouse game between Lorea's men and Pope's crew. Not quite, at least. Its more about survival, about how greed can seep into all of our hearts, about how greed can also lead us into danger. Getting all that money out of the country becomes more than they bargain for. While its a fairly simple story, I think people will be surprised where it ultimately goes.

Directed by J.C. Chandor, who also worked with Isaac on 2014's "A Most Violent Year," "Triple Frontier" is a striking thriller, one that people may be blindsided by at first glance. The screenplay co-written by Mark Boal (who has collaborated with Kathryn Bigelow on "Zero Dark Thirty," and "Detriot") is tight and intense. The actors all do an impeccable job bringing their flawed, bruised characters to life, not a bad performance in the bunch. It's good at balancing the action and the thrills, but also has an important message too. I do feel bad that so many of those who serve our country have a hard time finding work. But is greed truly the answer? How far are we willing to go for easy money?

"Triple Frontier" began as a tough production. Actors like Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Casey Affleck, Mark Walhberg, Tom Hardy, Channing Tatum and Mahershala Ali were all attached to star at one point. Ben Affleck apparently signed on, then dropped out only to get back in again. It was originally going to be distributed through Paramount Pictures, but the studio eventually dropped it. Netflix swooped in and acquired the rights to the film. After so many exchanges, after a film goes through so many hands, its normal for the ending result to be bad. I won't say the film does anything special, but man does it entertain.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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