“Triple Threat” unites three stalwarts of contemporary martial arts cinema: Indonesia’s Iko Uwais (“The Raid”), Thailand’s Tony Jaa (the “Ong-Bak” trilogy) and China’s Tiger Chen (who did stunts on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and the “Matrix” movies). Their characters’ alliance proves as stable as it could, given that the film’s reason for existing is to pair the stars off against each other — and others.
Those others — the ones they team up to fight — are assassins for hire whose leader (Scott Adkins) is sprung from captivity in an early sequence that results in the death of Uwais’s character’s wife and leaves the trackers played by Jaa and Chen for dead. Everyone vows revenge. But time — and a vicious underground mixed martial arts bout, not quite to the death, between a body-flipping Chen and Uwais — passes before that information is shared.
Jaa and Uwais tangle early, in a sequence spoiled by Jaa’s wearing a face-obscuring camouflage hat. Still, the director, Jesse V. Johnson, takes the generally sound approach of deferring the best action. This leaves, unfortunately, longueurs for considering leaps of logic in the plot, which involves a Chinese heiress (Celina Jade) working to loosen the grip of organized crime on the fictitious Asian country where her father grew up.
At times, the film’s demand for teamwork precludes satisfying payoffs. It would be more fun to watch Uwais take down the much-larger Michael Jai White (as one of the assassins) without an assist, for instance. Also, asking Adkins to take on Jaa and Uwais simultaneously just seems unsporting. But your scorecard will be full, which is the point.