‘Triple Frontier,’ a Male Ensemble Nightmare

Ben Affleck, Garrett Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam AND Oscar Isaac? Set the Casting Director in Irons!

I saw the Triple Frontier movie on Netflix. Five former special-forces soldiers who are now mercenaries or underemployed idiots stage One Last Heist on a drug compound in the jungles of Brazil. They do this because they think the world doesn’t treat them fairly. They keep saying, about one another, “he’s a good guy.” But none of them behaves in a way that resembles goodness. They’re partially-shaven stone-cold killers who are always doing stuff that’s not part of the plan.

TRIPLE FRONTIER ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Written by: Mark Boal
Starring: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal
Running time: 125 min.

Imagine the worst possible male-fronted ensemble cast for a mainstream American film. Would it include Charlie Hunnam? It would have to, by law. Hollywood has been trying to Make Hunnam Happen for 20 years, with occasional success. He did his best to ruin Pacific Rim, but couldn’t. In this movie, Hunnam, who plays a human male with large arms, displays four emotions: Dirty, Sweaty, Angry, and Bro Hug.

Oscar Isaac is also around to make things terrible in Triple Frontier. In fact, he appears in nearly every scene, as the greedy bastard who gets the gang back together. Sometimes Hollywood decides you must see an actor in everything, including Star Wars. That is Oscar Isaac, a Mark Ruffalo replicant. He spends the entire movie looking like he either just got out of a tanning bed or just got done getting sucked dry by a vampire, and always looking like he’s constipated. His Spanish is pretty good.

Then we have Garrett Hedlund, last seen as The Dipshit Who Ruined Tron, playing Charlie Hunnam’s brother, a mixed-martial arts fighter who’s even dumber than Charlie Hunnam. Also, Pedro Pascal, last seen getting his eyes gouged out in Game Of Thrones. He plays a bad pilot named “Catfish,” though we never actually see him catfishing anyone. At first it seems like Catfish might be a more interesting character than the others. But soon they rub off on him and he just becomes tough, grumpy, and brutal.

Who else? Oh yes, if that cast didn’t annoy you enough, the movie also features the sad Batman, Ben Affleck! He gets top billing in Triple Frontier, but Oscar Isaac is clearly the main character. Poor Affleck mostly hangs in the background while Hunnam and Hedlund do their weird flexing. Ben Affleck ends up being the least-grating actor in the ensemble. May God have mercy on our souls.

Ben Affleck, not as Batman, in Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier seems like it’s going to be another drug-war melodrama like Traffic or Sicario. But it soon becomes apparent that the movie it most resembles is The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. However, it lacks that classic’s wit, pacing, or pathos, substituting a bunch of Semper Fi Bro Code nonsense instead of actual dramatic tension borne from character difference. Let’s cast Ben Affleck in the Fred C. Dobbs part, but make him a nice guy who everyone loves, and see what happens. Nothing good.

Everyone involved here has been in better movies, except Garrett Hedlund. The screenwriter, Mark Boal, won Oscars for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Director J.C. Chandor made the gripping financial thriller Margin Call, as well as two other movies that weren’t racist against Brazilians.

For a movie mostly set in South America, the movie features surprisingly few speaking roles for South Americans, who get slaughtered by the dozens, like zombies in Left For Dead. It’s not like they didn’t have time for a bit of characterization, even of the “we don’t need no stinking badges” variety. The movie runs more than two hours. You could have cut one of the scenes of  Isaac hauling a sack up a hill to give a South American citizen a line other than “Get them! They’re getting away!”

Women fare poorly in this bicep-centered world. Isaac has a hot girlfriend who helps with the plan. She does little but purse her lips grimly, and then disappears for the second half when the going gets tough. The other female characters are mostly wailing peasant grandmas and Affleck’s teenage daughter, who has one scene that’s so flat you wonder if they cast her by choosing her name out of a bucket at a local high school.

Chandor gives us some nice panoramic shots of the Andes. There’s a pretty gripping helicopter crash scene, and some egregious but emotionally-affecting donkey horror. You know the movie’s a real arfer when a donkey’s death is more shocking than Ben Affleck’s.

Yes, Ben Affleck dies in this movie! Hah, that’s a spoiler. Maybe now you won’t see it, or maybe you will. I don’t recommend that you do, because I don’t recommend anything that contains Charlie Hunnam. Oscar Isaac cannot be avoided; we will never not be able to see him. But I still believe that Hunnam can be stopped if we no longer watch anything in which he appears.

Someday, if we’re all diligent, there will be no more Charlie Hunnam in our films, and we will all be free. He can go be impossibly handsome on his own damn time.

This concludes my review of the Triple Frontier movie.

Charlie Hunnam, displaying his full emotional range, in Triple Frontier.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

6 thoughts on “‘Triple Frontier,’ a Male Ensemble Nightmare

  • March 16, 2019 at 3:08 am

    I just watched it. Your review is on point ! This could have been such a good movie. Yet from the beginning scene you understand Netflix is just using the Narco effect to sell a movie I could have directed. Yet the mention that it had been directed by A Most Violent Year could have been a hint on the incoming disaster. It was nice reading you !

    • May 2, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Great review. The acting was terrible (the old cliche grizzled veterans) and one last victory lap. The part where he said “you’ve been shot 5 times for your country”…. “6 actually”…. made me cringe. And I fucking hate when they cast Ben Affleck as a smart guy, when in real life he has the IQ of a sweet potato (as witnessed by his idiotic attempt to debate Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s show.)
      Charlie Hunnam is about as fake a tough guy as exists in Hollywood.
      I will note though, one critique of your review is that the only part that took place in Brazil was the bar scene and the Heist scene (as noted by the script). The rest of the film took place in Spanish speaking countries. Probably because it was filmed mostly in Mexico and Definitely not Brazil. Brazil is all about image and would never allow Americans to make the Brazilians look as terrible as they did in this film. I’m not woke SJW screaming racist, but the entire film I definitely got a racist vibe from it as they painted every brown person they came across as either working in the cocaine Biz or a dirt por farmer or Favelero. The movie was total dogshit

  • March 17, 2019 at 9:13 am

    You state that everyone involved has been in better movies, except Garrett Hedlund. He starred in Mudbound, which in my opinion, was a very good movie.

    • March 17, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Agreed on Mudbound. Though I still think his participation in it was a coincidence!

  • March 18, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    I’m crying from laughing so hard

  • March 23, 2019 at 11:53 am

    This review was more entertaining than the film. My husband has read this to me aloud on two different occasions for entertainment. So hilarious.


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