JC Chandor (Margin Call, A Most Violent Year) assembles a great cast for Triple Frontier, an old-school heist movie in which a group of mercenaries get greedy on one last job
Triple Frontier is the kind of macho action movie Hollywood has long forgotten how to make. In the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, these hard-edged genre flicks filled to the brim with hunky stars were a dime a Dirty Dozen, but today people seem to prefer their action ensembles to wear primary coloured spandex. More’s the pity, because this sinewy, smart, star-studded – if a tad glossy – throwback from talented director JC Chandor reminds us what we’ve been missing.
As it should be for this type of film, the setup could be written on the back of a cig paper. A group of veterans who’ve fallen on hard times are convinced to come out of retirement by their old army bud (played by Oscar Isaac) for one last job, which mainly involves alleviating a drug baron of his ill-gotten millions that are stashed away in his mansion deep in the Amazon jungle. Among the motley crew Isaac assembles are army motivational speaker Charlie Hunnam, his MMA fighter brother (Garrett Hedlund), Pedro Pascal’s grounded pilot and Ben Affleck at his most sad sack as a tactical genius-turned-terrible estate agent.
Chandor isn’t simply interested in standard “one-last-job” thrills, though. Often the pleasure of this particular sub-genre is watching a well-oiled unit pull off their heist with aplomb, but these mercenaries get greedy. To their surprise and delight, there’s a lot more dough in the kingpin’s house than they expected. The dollar signs in their eyes see them deviate from their meticulously-planned mission with increasingly disastrous results as they pull more and more bags of money out of the house, with no plan of how to schlep it out of the country. By the time they’re burning bundles of $100 bills on an Andean mountain ledge to survive, the absurdity of their greed finally dawns on them.
It’s a shame then that Triple Frontier never achieves the nightmarish insanity that the premise promises. Filmmakers like Werner Herzog (Aguirre, Wrath of God), William Friedkin (Sorcerer) and John Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) have made great films about men going into the wilderness and losing their minds over money, but only Affleck’s character teeters close to the edge. The younger pretty boys on the team barely have a hair out of place. You wonder what feverish stew of wounded masculinity Kathryn Bigelow – her regular collaborator Mark Boal wrote the script and wanted her to direct – might have cooked up with this script and cast. But like Triple Frontier’s avaricious heroes, maybe we’re getting a little greedy. This is fun, muscular filmmaking.
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