It’s usually a bad sign when half of Hollywood’s A-list actors circle a project and then drop out. Everyone from Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Casey Affleck, and Mahershala Ali were at once attached to “Triple Frontier.” Writer/director J.C. Chandor has made 4 movies, 3 of them have been about corruption caused by greed. This time around he takes the audience back to the ’90s for a movie that looks like something Stallone or Schwarzenegger might have starred in. A group of ex-military men armed with guns and bravado risks everything for a big payday. Affleck looks bored, the interchangeable duo Hunnam and Hedlund deliver their usual, and Pascal is the least fleshed out character in the bunch. It’s Oscar Isaac, who worked with Chandor on “A Most Violent Year,” that delivers the films most compelling performance of the pack.
Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Isaac) has been working in South America fighting illegal drug trafficking since leaving the military. He has little to show for his hard work financially. His fellow brothers-in-arms have all retired and settled down to meaningless civilian lives where they struggle to find purpose. Frustrated by corrupt local law enforcement, Garcia concocts an operation that would rid the country of its worst drug lord while stealing all his money at the same time. He enlists the help of his friends who only agree to Garcia’s dangerous plan after Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis (Affleck) comes on board. With the team assembled they face a dangerous set of circumstances, no medic, no room for error, and if they get caught no one will even know where they are.
When the team is advancing into the jungle, fleeing with the money or shooting at bad guys, “Triple Frontier” finds moments of suspense and excitement for the viewer. Just don’t expect anything else of this flick. Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Hurt Locker”) wrote the treatment for this project when his partner Kathryn Bigelow was attached to direct. It’s frustrating to see a macho film like this with men we expect to be equipped with the ability to handle dangerous situations, making uncharacteristically bad decisions. However, it’s the stupid decisions the team makes that moves the plot along. Anytime the group stops the action to carry on a conversation, the film becomes a snooze-fest. Also, it might have made the film more interesting if one of the male characters were written (or cast) as a woman?
The physical challenges of the movie are what make it interesting. Hardly anything is shot on set, it’s all on location in Colombia with the five actors roughing it in the wilderness. The authenticity of the locations really sells the suspense and action sequences. Chandor’s work has become quite hit or miss, with “Triple Frontier” being the most marketable of his four projects. Netflix is the ideal home for this movie because its appeal extends only to those interested in the cast and the action sequences. It’s the type of movie you watch when nothing else is on, and after it’s over, you’ll likely hear, “What’s next?” without any discussion or thought in between.
Final Thought – “Triple Frontier” looks and feels like a Stallone/Schwarzenegger film resurrected from the ’90s.