Triple Threat (2019)

Triple Threat (2019)- * * *

Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson

Starring: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Celina Jade, Michael Jai White, and Scott Adkins

Xian (Jade) is a wealthy woman who uses her money to put forth an initiative to clean up the communities around her. You wouldn't think this would be such a bad thing, but it really upsets the local baddies. Part of her clean-up plan involves getting rid of the local gangsters. So the evil Collins (Adkins) and Devereaux (White), along with their legion of evildoers, set out to kidnap Xian, and it appears no one can stand in their way. 

That is, until our heroes Payu (Jaa), Jaka (Uwais), and Long Fei (Chen) show up on the scene. They end up protecting Xian and fighting the bad guys tooth and nail. Naturally, that leads to a lot of shooting and fighting. Who will survive the TRIPLE THREAT?

We know what you're thinking and the answer is no, Triple Threat is not the long-awaited biopic of Harvey Fierstein. We all know he can sing, dance, and act. Until such time as that potential blockbuster is unleashed on the public, however, we have the movie at hand today, which is an entertaining and worthwhile beat-em-up. Strangely, it doesn't quite reach the electrifying heights its superb cast would seem to indicate.

Putting fan favorites Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and Tiger Chen all in one film together is pretty much the action fan's dream cast in 2019. While it's certainly not a case of Lone Tiger Effect (which, for those who are new to the site, is what we call it when a stellar cast is assembled but the movie itself is a dud), because the film is far too good for that, somehow it feels like some ingredients are missing. And we think we know what they are. 

But before we reveal what we think that might be, let's talk about what works in Triple Threat. First, and most obvious, is the Martial Arts fighting. It's stupendous and our superstar cast really 'brings it'. Perhaps they felt a bit of friendly competition with each other, but everyone brings their A game, and each has their own unique style. 

It was a treat to watch the Jaa-Adkins fight, and the Jaa-Iko-Adkins brawl was manna from action heaven. We appreciate all the work that goes into such scenes. Without listing each and every fight, let's just say that, even more so than the gun-shooting scenes, these combat sections are movie highlights. But that being said, the whole thing is quite violent and has a high kill count.

With that in mind, Triple Threat certainly aims to please, as it starts off as your classic jungle shoot-em-up, complete with exploding huts. Then it moves to a scene of Punchfighting. Then it settles into its urban action scenario. So it seems that fans are being very well served with a bunch of familiar settings they'd be used to from action movies past. Overall it's shot very well and feels professional. 

We also felt it was different to have not just Adkins as a baddie, but also Michael Jai White as one as well. Both men are primarily known as heroes, so it was unusual to have not just one of them playing against type, but two. We liked that as a change of pace. 

But, as promised, here's what we felt could have been improved. Not very surprisingly, it was the plot and characterizations. The former was minimal, and the latter was nil. As action fans, this is not new to us, and we're all very used to this, I'm sure. 

But what would have knocked Triple Threat out of the park as a complete and satisfying whole would have been a compelling plotline with characters you really get to know and care about. Not that you don't care about our heroes, but you know what we mean. A little more detail or perhaps a little bit of emotion would have gone a long way. 

But that's our only real gripe with Triple Threat. Otherwise, it's a top-notch example of modern-day action. We couldn't be happier that movies like this are still being made. We say keep 'em coming. So, while the absence of more formal plot and character elements may keep the audience from totally engaging, as an exercise in action violence, Triple Threat is recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum! 


Dark Day Express (1989)

Dark Day Express (1989)- * * *
AKA: Mission Hunter 

Directed by: Lewis Peacock

Starring: Christoph Kluppel

A group of adventurers is formed in true “Assemble a Team” fashion: Dr. Raymond is a man who looks like a cross between Sammo Hung and James Earl Jones, and he gets the ball rolling. They find a tough American guy named Tony (Kluppel), a mulleted Punchfighter named Samuel, a wacky girl-guide named Pam, a jean jacket-wearing ruffian named Patrick, and a worldly-wise woman named Pauline, and they all trek out into the Thai jungle to recover a lost relic. 

They’re promised two million dollars each if they can find it, but it’s not going to be easy. Not only do they have to deal with the pitfalls of the jungle and interpersonal differences, it seems everyone in Thailand with a machine gun is after them as well. Will it be a DARK DAY for our expedition, or will our MISSION HUNTERs find their…mission? Find out if you dare!

Dark Day Express is an enjoyable jungle-blow-em-up-guard-tower-fall-exploding-hut-machine-gun shooter…with a difference! With confidence I can compare it to the classic slasher Final Exam (1981), because in that film, for the most part, for the first hour we get to know the characters, and in the last section, the slashing starts. 

While Dark Day Express will never be remembered for its character development, what it does well is keeping its powder dry until the showstopping final third. We then see a half-hour-long climax of blow-ups, Martial Arts, shooting, and motorbike stunts. If you’re not really feeling it for the first hour, hold on. We’re about to reach Commander (1988)-level awesomeness.

There’s the classic dubbing we all love and enjoy, and the whole outing has that “third-world charm” we often speak of. It was clearly designed to please the Asian audiences of the day (there doesn’t seem to have been much of a push for more viewership outside of that part of the world), and presumably that includes some of our hated bathroom humor. That aside, characters yell while they shoot machine guns, and, especially in the last section, the action quotient is fairly well off the charts.

Usually in the big finale, there’s either a Martial Arts battle or a series of shootouts or some blow-ups. Here, quite unusually, we get all three at once! We cut back from one to the other to the other. It deserves credit for that alone. Further enhancing the “it’s foreign to us!” vibe is the music by Thoodore Green. No, that’s not a typo. At least not by us. There’s a guy credited as Thoodore who made the music, which was great, by the way, including a copyright infringement-defying crib of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme at one point.

What’s more, other names in the credits include director Lewis Peacock – if that is his real name – and other people with the last names of Plum and Mustard. Did they just open a box of Clue to get their anglicized names? And do they think those are normal, common names for Americans or Brits to have? 

Nevertheless, it’s a shame this is the only credited effort for director Peacock. He could have, and should have, gone on to do more. If he can show his ability to blow up a hut or two with his debut, imagine what could have come later? But we’re lucky we got what we got.

Dark Day Express is a blow-em-up gem that will surely please fans of that subgenre of action known as the jungle-based Exploding-Hutter (such as ourselves, and probably you). The golden year of 1989 has given us yet another winner, and the film deserves to be more widely seen and appreciated.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Skin Traffik (2015)

Skin Traffik (2015)- * * *

AKA: A Hitman in London

Directed by: Ara Paiaya

Starring: Gary Daniels, Dominique Swain, Daryl Hannah, Jeff Fahey, Eric Roberts, Michael Madsen, and Mickey Rourke

Bradley (Daniels) was a hitman, but he gave it all up. But a chance meeting on the streets of London with a prostitute named Anna Peel (Swain) slowly embroils him in the danger of the underworld once again. 

Not only does he have to face the goons sent forth by the guy that used to run him, known only as The Executive (Roberts), but also a pair of evil SKIN TRAFFIKers named The Boss (Madsen) and Zhanna (Hannah) are wise to Bradley ruining all their operations. Teaming up with a mysterious diamond merchant named Jacob Andries (Fahey), the two men aim to find Anna's missing sister...and take down the baddies's operations forever. But what will Vogel (Rourke) have to say about all this? Find out when a HITMAN IN LONDON comes to your screen...

Thank goodness for Ara Paiaya. He's one of the few people out there delivering old school-style action movies for the fans. We saw the follow-up to Skin Traffik, Instant Death (2017), first, and really enjoyed it. But we liked Skin Traffik even more. It's very hard to lose when you put Gary Daniels in the main hero role and he goes around busting heads. Surround him with a top-notch cast of B-Movie regulars and you have a real winner on your hands.

The plot is sort of Urban Justice (2007) meets Taken (2008) meets the aforementioned Instant Death. Again, a very winning formula. The whole thing kicks off, quite literally, with Gary Daniels looking for the time-honored "Disk" just like in all the action movies of the old days. 

The only difference now is he's asking Mickey Rourke, who is almost unrecognizable here. If it wasn't for his voice, we wouldn't have recognized him at all. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully? He looks like a cross between what happened to Kenny Rogers, Jocelyn Wildenstein, and an old Hollywood agent. Gary Daniels still looks good and seems vital because he doesn't go in for any of that superficial muck. 

Fan favorite Madsen brings his classic charisma and his gravelly voice to the proceedings. It would have been nice to see him and Daryl Hannah in other settings besides just that one room, but we're still happy they're there. Same goes for Eric Roberts, who also puts in an enjoyable performance, but for most of it, it's a classic sit-down role. To be fair, he does get up later, however. The whole rest of the cast is fantastic and we're very happy they all agreed to be in this low-budget DTV action movie.

Sure, some of the action scenes are a bit rough around the edges, but the viewer can tell they were done with a lot of heart. The sped-up action and the CGI were not even needed. For a true old-school feel, they should have been eschewed, especially with Gary Daniels at the helm. But, on the whole, those are minor quibbles and we really enjoyed Skin Traffik immensely. 

You can tell that Paiaya and his compatriots really cared about what they were doing, and that shines through to us, the viewer. If he chooses to continue down this road of action filmmaking, which he clearly has a lot of affection for, the sky's the limit for what he can do in the future. We wholeheartedly recommend Skin Traffik.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by our buddy, DTVC!


Mission Kill (1986)

Mission Kill (1985)- * *1\2

Directed by: David Winters

Starring: Robert Ginty, Cameron Mitchell, Merete Van Camp, Eduardo Lopez Rojas, Henry Darrow, Sandy Baron, and Olivia D'Abo

Cooper (Ginty) was a demolitions expert in 'Nam. He parlayed that into a career of blowing stuff up after returning home. When he meets up with his buddy, an older fellow Marine named Harry (Cam), at the Little Nashville Club to take in some ladies oil wrestling, Harry tells him he's running guns to the rebels in the South American country of Santa Maria. Harry, filled with a sense of patriotic pride (although what that has to do with the people of Santa Maria I'm not exactly sure), in his enthusiasm convinces the reluctant Cooper to come with him on one of his gun runs south of the border.

The two men hop into Harry's big rig, named Harry's Dream Machine, and they eventually reach their destination. However, much trouble follows as the baddies proceed to ambush them and Harry goes to the big oil wrestling ring in the sky. 

So Cooper figures the best way to get revenge is to join the rebels and slaughter as many of El Presidente's goons as he can. Thanks to an embedded wartime journalist named Bingo Thomas (Baron - unforgettable to Seinfeld fans as the irascible Jack Klompus), Cooper becomes an inadvertent media celebrity and the fight against El Presidente Ariban (Rojas) and the entrenched bureaucracy represented by Senor Borghini (Darrow) escalates to much bigger proportions than the rebels ever imagined before Cooper's arrival. But what about Sydney Borghini (Van Kamp)? Where do her true allegiances lie? You'll find out if you accept the mission that Ginty accepted: MISSION KILL.

In the 80's, there was a lot in the news about the turmoil in certain South American countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua. While not South American, the incident on Grenada captured the public's attention as well. And, with the possible help of Stripes (1981), there was a renewed national fasciation with oil wrestling. With this context in mind, we have Mission Kill, yet another addition to the seemingly-endless El Presidente Boom of the 80's. Not just ninjas had a Boom back then, let's not forget. 

Mission Kill falls in with compatriots such as Cocaine Wars (1985) and Hour of the Assassin (1987). It's not particularly distinguished but it's not awful. It does have fan favorites Ginty and Cam, after all. Nothing with them could ever be a total disaster. But a better example of their pairing is another Winters film, Code Name: Vengeance (1987). In that case they're in Africa, not South America. But, you know, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Despite some slow passages, we do get a healthy amount of shooting and blow-ups. The score has some very nice synthy moments underpinning it all. A brief exploding helicopter is also present and accounted for. We liked the plot device of Ginty being a demolitions expert: it gave a reason for the explosions (though one is never really needed, of course). He blew in Vietnam, and he blows today. 

Naturally, preceding all of this is an on-screen quote by William Faulkner from his 1950 Nobel Prize speech. Of course there is.

Featuring the catchy and memorable end credits song "Stand" by Jesse Frederick - which absolutely should have been used at about the mid-way point in the movie during a training sequence in order to pump things up but unfortunately isn't - Mission Kill can certainly be categorized as one of the El Presidente movies that took up video store shelf space in the 80's. It's not in any way bad, but it needed more focus and drive. If choosing between this and Code Name: Vengeance, pick Code Name: Vengeance. It's sillier and a bit more fun.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty