Triple Frontier

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

JC Chandor

Starring

Ben Affleck Charlie Hunnam Oscar Isaac

Anticipation.

Look at that cast!

Enjoyment.

Oh, what a waste of that cast.

In Retrospect.

Fails as an action film, fails as a drama.

JC Chandor’s South American action-thriller boasts a stellar cast, but it’s all brawn and no brains.

So much of what we consider to be the American Dream is built on the notion of greed as a positive character trait. This doesn’t just pertain to the acquisition of money or possessions, but rather the unique western desire to be harder, better, faster, stronger. In JC Chandor’s bruising action-thriller, Triple Frontier, greed reigns over five former soldiers, who reunite when the prospect of a multi-million-dollar payday drags them into the heart of darkness.

Handsome, Metallica-loving Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac) is responsible for getting the band back together after receiving word that Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos), a generic South American drug lord, is sitting on a vast fortune in his remote compound (it’s never specified exactly which country the film is set in, but it’s Spanish-speaking and cocaine is grown there).

So he pays a visit to old buddies Tom “Redfly” Davis (Ben Affleck), William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam) and his little brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund) and Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascal). Time hasn’t been so kind to the quintet – Tom’s now a divorced realtor in sad cargo pants trying to sell condos to newlyweds, while the Miller brothers have pivoted to MMA fights to earn a crust. After some gentle persuasion, the gang agrees to team up for One Last Ride.

The robbery of the aforementioned drug baron is only a minor part of the story – much more time is spent with the motley crew as they try to make off with their ill-gotten gains, which turn out to be significantly more substantial than they had thought. As things start to go wrong, they become increasingly reckless.

A film about five ‘good men’ living with the guilt of their poor life decisions is an intriguing prospect, but the script (written by Chandor and The Hurt Locker/Zero Dark Thirty scribe Mark Boal) never allows for any substantial character development. There’s a curious genericness to everything, and the stakes never feel particularly high, despite what Santiago keeps telling his friends.

At least the film looks beautiful, cinematographer Roman Vasyanov stepping away from usual collaborator David Ayers to show the contrast between the lush natural landscapes and the men invading them. For his part, Chandor, as ever, handles the action scenes well. But rather than offering a critique of greed and human kind’s capacity for cruelty, the film brings about an odd feeling of senselessness.

It lacks the frantic desperation of Steve McQueen’s Widows, which similarly plays on the heist-as-survival concept, and tries to rationalise the ultimately deplorable actions of its protagonists, who come off as wholly unsympathetic despite the roguish charm all five leads exude. The lack of character development means we never really invest in their brotherhood or shared motivations, and it all ends up seeming empty and avoidable.

Published 6 Mar 2019

Tags: Ben Affleck Charlie Hunnam Garrett Hedlund JC Chandor Mark Boal Oscar Isaac Triple Frontier

Anticipation.

Look at that cast!

Enjoyment.

Oh, what a waste of that cast.

In Retrospect.

Fails as an action film, fails as a drama.

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