Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Warriors on a larcenous mission

Triple Frontier doesn't exactly freshen an old formula, but skillfully repeats it.
The story probably sounds familiar. A disgruntled ex-member of the special forces gathers a trusted group of fellow warriors in hopes of pulling off a job that will repay them for the work they did while in uniform.

The target: a South American drug lord, who also happens to be a vicious killer. No one among the righteous will mourn the drug czar's demise. The obvious question: What could go wrong. The obvious answer: Plenty.

Triple Frontier boasts heavy credentials. The movie was directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, A Most Violent Year). Mark Boal (The Hurt Lucker and Zero Dark Thirty) earned co-writing credit, and high-tension maven Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) served as one of the movie's producers.

A couple of top-liners add additional appeal. Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck head a cast that includes Garret Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, and Charlie Hunnam. <>
The movie signals its intentions in the names of its characters. Isaac plays Santiago 'Pope' Garcia, the mission's prime mover. Affleck portrays Tom 'Redfly' Davis, a logistical genious. My favorite: Hunnam's William 'Ironhead' Miller.

These hard-bitten but aging warriors know how to plan an operation, but -- as the saying goes -- the best-laid plans ... Well, you know the rest.

Chandor handles the action with aplomb, ensuring that it unfolds in coherent fashion. The big heist generates the requisite tension and the cast does as much as it can with material that won't evoke any comparisons with Chekov. Triple Frontier displays more interest in the ABCs of survival than in any deep exploration of character.

I'm a bit of sucker for this kind of material and Triple Frontier -- which wisely places its robbery about midway through -- earns passing grades with challenging locations (crossing the Andes on foot) and by emphasizing the sheer weight of the haul of cash the gang tries to bring back to the U.S.

I guess that's the point: Major money can weigh you down as much as it can open doors to liberation. Or maybe the point is something else: This kind of material remains irresistible for filmmakers.

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