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On Netflix: TRIPLE FRONTIER (2019)

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TRIPLE FRONTIER
(US - 2019)

Directed by J.C. Chandor. Written by Mark Boal and J.C. Chandor. Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona, Rey Gallegos, Louis Jeovanny, Juan Camilo Castillo, Sheila Vand, Madeline "Maddy" Wary. (R, 125 mins)

In various stages of development since 2010, Netflix's drug cartel heist thriller TRIPLE FRONTIER was originally set to be director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal's follow-up to their Oscar-winning THE HURT LOCKER, with stars like Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Channing Tatum, Tom Hardy, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Mark Wahlberg all in talks or attached to make up the ensemble cast at different points along the way. By the time the film went into production in early 2018, only Ben Affleck remained as Bigelow and Boal were out, though both are listed as co-producers, and Boal shares screenwriting credit with eventual director J.C. Chandor, who established himself as a promising new filmmaker with the riveting financial crisis autopsy MARGIN CALL, the Robert Redford-starring ALL IS LOST, and the throwback Sidney Lumet-style NYC crime and corruption of A MOST VIOLENT YEAR. Chandor seems an odd choice for a big-budget actioner like this (and seeing the finished product, it's a little difficult to picture Tom Hanks starring), but it finds its bearings after a shaky opening act that, with dialogue like "That's the price of being a warrior" and needle-drops by Metallica and Pantera, seems dangerously close to venturing down the same path as the meat-headed, barbed-wire-tatted bicep brosploitation of 2014's mouth-breathing SABOTAGE, a fuckin' wicked sick fuckin' work-hard/play-hard fuckin' X-Treme energy drink disguised as an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.






Pope (Oscar Isaac) is ex-Special Forces now earning a living as a military contractor. He's been after South American drug lord Lorea (Rey Gallegos) for several years and has an inside informant with his lover Yovanna (Adria Arjona), who handles Lorea's books. Pope wants to nail Lorea but he has other plans, namely getting his hands on his money, which Lorea keeps at his heavily-guarded Brazilian fortress. Hatching a plan that's dangerous and very off-the-books, Pope recruits four of his former Special Forces badass buddies to go along on a fact-finding recon mission to hopefully talk them into raiding the compound, wiping out Lorea and his army, and making off with his estimated $75 million fortune that's kept somewhere on the premises. There's Redfly (Ben Affleck), now a divorced dad and unsuccessful real estate agent; disgraced pilot Catfish (Pedro Pascal), who's been making ends meet as a coke trafficker; Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam), who's taken his PTSD anger-management issues and found work as a motivational speaker for the newly-enlisted; and Ironhead's nickname-less little brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund), now an MMA fighter with a losing record. None of these guys are happy with the current state of their lives and only feel at home in combat, so of course they'll hesitate at first but eventually agree. Before you know it, they're crossing the border into Brazil to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through the Jungle," without question the most overused classic rock song in commercial cinema today. I don't have scientific evidence, but I watch a shit-ton of movies and I see a lot of montages with a lot of familiar needle-drops, and I can say with certainty that I didn't hear the Fabulous Thunderbirds'"Tuff Enuff" in the mid-1980s as much as I've heard goddamn "Run Through the Jungle" in the latter half of the 2010s.


That's about 30 minutes in, and honestly, I was getting a little irritated with TRIPLE FRONTIER. Fortunately, it improves quite a bit, particularly with the botched escape from Lorea's fortress, where the money is hidden in the walls, and the eventual issues they have transporting it to their rendezvous point, which requires them to fly over the Andes in a military chopper that can't handle the weight of the cargo since the presumed $75 million is actually closer to $250 million. This forces them to resort to drastic measures--from ditching some of the money to finding alternate modes of transport--that turn TRIPLE FRONTIER into a sort-of FITZCARRALDO reimagined as a heist/survivalist adventure. The characters themselves are rather two-dimensional, though it does go for an unpredictable choice as to who the hair-trigger fuck-up among them will be that causes an already dangerous situation to get exponentially worse. Aside from a dodgy-looking CGI chopper crash, TRIPLE FRONTIER, shot on Oahu and in Colombia, is fairly suspenseful and solid entertainment that's certainly worth a stream, even if runs a tad longish at just past two hours.



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