Six Months And Then Some of Hyperfixate

On Triple Frontier's Spiritual Relatives, the Gossip Girl reboot, and the Gyllenhaal Stinky Allegations.

Welcome to Hyperfixate! This is a weekly newsletter that publishes every Wednesday on everything from unwarranted celebrity thirst to movies I only watched in the name of said unwarranted celebrity thirst. Sign up here for emails straight to your inbox.

I want to express my sincerest thank yous for sticking with this little newsletter of mine for this long. Through thick and thin, long and short, insightful to nonsensical, I cannot even begin to describe how grateful I am for you reading this writing endeavor of mine.

That being said, it appears I have missed Hyperfixate’s six-month anniversary. I started this newsletter in February of this year, the first post going out on February 3rd (like the Jorja Smith song). I feel like I tweeted happy half-birthday, newsletter child of mine sometime in July, which probably was not at all mathematically correct. I did Math HL in IB (weird flex but okay) and I got a 4. I should technically, legally, and on paper know how to count. August 3rd—this newsletter’s official half-birthday—was last week! Silly me!

So to celebrate, I thought I would take this week’s newsletter back to its roots to dig out honour to the brain worms that started it all. I want to talk to you about Triple Frontier and its spiritual brothers in arms.

Dudes Rock: The Heist

Loyal readers of Hyperfixate will recall that I am obsessed with finding spiritual siblings and successors to films and songs, especially making wild links to things that are not in any way related to one another simply because they’re dots that have been connected in my mind. Loyal readers may also remember that I reluctantly but excessively talk about men, specifically men in the movies. It’s embarrassing, but let’s just get through this together.

With Triple Frontier, it was more of a vessel for me to get out any Pedro Pascalified thoughts and subsequently Oscar Isaac-related opinions out into the open. It had such a hold on me earlier this year that I don’t even recognize that feeling anymore. Like, I knew I said all those things, but I’ve completely dissociated from that fixation for no other reason besides new fixations taking its place. I hadn’t seen Triple Frontier in ages, but I have revisited a couple of films I knew lay the groundwork for what made Triple Frontier work for me.

I’m going to leave off the usual heist ensemble suspects from this list (the Ocean’s Trilogy or Now You See Mes of the world) and focus on films that fulfill the following criteria:

  • An ensemble of dudes and/or DILFs, most of whom have gone on to helm major franchises;

  • At least one, and usually only one, female character with a significant speaking role;

  • A pair of brothers on the team/squad/unit of disgraced/retired/incredibly professional thieves;

  • At least one cast member I nor popular culture seem to be fond of, usually playing the character most driven by greed;

  • And a score of cold hard cash.

They’re not perfect, nor am I arguing that they are “good” films. But I can’t stop thinking about how they’re all connected in the way you’d put together a Letterboxd list.

The Losers (2010) - Not To Be Confused with The A-Team or Those Kids from It

Based on the Vertigo Comics series of the same name, The Losers follows a team of disgraced former US Special Forces operatives after a black ops mission goes wrong. Unlike the Triple Frontier boys, these fellas seek to exonerate themselves after their handler Max sets them up to fail catastrophically. Their dance to get piles of cash comes in later.

Four months after they’ve gone into hiding, their leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is approached by Aisha (Zoe Saldana) and offers him a chance to kill Max, clear their names, and re-enter the United States. Clay says yes and gathers his team: Roque (Idris Elba), Jensen (Chris Evans), Pooch (Columbus Short of Olivia Pope & Associates Gladiators speech fame), and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) to get the job done.

Each team member occupies an archetype, as expected. Clay tries to be the glue that keeps everyone together but gets involved with the #Girlboss, Jensen is the goofy communications tech, Roque is smooth-talking and level-headed until he isn’t, Cougar is strong, silent, and deadly, whilst Pooch is… there? I’m not sure what he does other than refer to himself in the third person and have a pregnant wife that doesn’t know he’s still alive. Zoe Saldana’s Aisha is driven, sexy, and of course a #Girlboss—using the boys to carry out her own vendetta against the Big Bad.

I’m convinced Jeffrey Dean Morgan has intense chemistry with everyone he will ever come across. Though I struggle to believe Saldana and Chris Pratt in the Guardians movies, I find her and Morgan’s team-up to be quite exciting, actually. It’s hot, what else do you want me to say! Even on The Walking Dead, Morgan manages to be inches from Andrew Lincoln’s face carrying Joker/Batman animosity and sexual tension in the same wry smile. He has a gift, I tell you.

The Losers is one of my mum’s secret guilty pleasures, and I completely understand why. It’s a lot of fun, it’s kind of campy, the number of explosions and stellar performances from JDM and Idris Elba overshadow some of the film’s more lackluster story elements. It’s a tight, high-octane, action romp that leans into its colourful comic book roots. What I appreciate about this adaptation is that it isn’t afraid to have fun and do right by its source material’s aesthetics and tone, even if it can fall flat or a little hollow at times. It’s not trying too hard to be dark or edgy or uniformly monotonous to set up any future sequels, it just wants to have a bit of dumb fun.

Takers (2010) - What Are We, Some Kind of Suicide Squad?

This next film is also an Idris Elba-Zoe Saldana joint slay, but I didn’t pick it for that commonality alone. Takers is Triple Frontier if they were gentleman thieves. Criminals that opt for a John Mulaney-like dress code (can’t go wrong with a three-piece suit). It’s a straight heist thriller, with some useless cops getting enough screentime to detract from the relationships within the crew.

Under the leadership of Gordon Cozier (Idris Elba), this team of swanky, swaggering Los Angeles bank robbers celebrates the success of their latest heist. We’ve got John (Paul Walker), Cozier’s second-in-command, their baby-faced technical whizz AJ (Hayden Christensen), and brothers Jake (Michael Ealy) and Jesse (Ew, Chris Brown) Attica—Jake is good with explosives, and Jesse is fast. Whilst their celebrating at Jake’s club, complete with bottle service courtesy of his girlfriend Lilly (Zoe Saldana), an old teammate, Ghost (Ew, Tip “T.I.” Harris) resurfaces for the first time since he’s been incarcerated with a new job that could earn the crew $12 million. Of course, the crew mistrusts Ghost as he suggests the heist needs to take place the following week.

As they prepare for this job, two LAPD Detectives are hot on their heels: Detectives Welles (Matt Dillon) and Hatcher (Jay Hernandez). Welles and Hatcher have their own problems—they brought on themselves—to deal with: Welles is under investigation for using excessive force and has been asked to co-operate with an investigation on Hatcher for corruption. For some reason, these cops’ personal lives take up a lot more screen time than I had expected, and their subplots get tied up in a neat little bow to motivate Matt Dillon’s character to go after the crew even harder. When Ghost double-crosses the crew for a Russian mob, AJ, Jake, and Jesse die in the crossfire—the latter two dying at the hands of the police. He also shoots Gordon and Welles in a Mexican stand-off but is taken out by John. Nice and tidy.

You can’t really expect much character work from a 100-minute action movie, but there were some interesting moments from Idris Elba and Marianne Jeanne-Baptiste, who plays his addict sister. Gordon’s relationship with his sister Naomi serendipitously intersects with his criminal activity, forcing him to reckon with the decisions he’s made on behalf of others. I actually think this is a strong Idris Elba performance; he’s understated, confident, and he’s working with what’s available to him. Paul Walker is his usual brilliant self, although he’s just playing a much more suave Brian O’Connor in this. Zoe Saldana doesn’t get as much to do in this film compared to The Losers at all, she’s simply the love interest that dies to move Michael Ealy’s short-lived arc along. Even Marianne Jeanne-Baptiste’s character, as great as her performance was, served as an extension of Elba’s character.

T.I. and Chris Brown are to Takers what Ben Affleck is to Triple Frontier: the cast members I wish were not in the film. Why those two booked these roles, I do not know. They were both annoying. I found the moments where the rest of the crew were talking about Ghost behind his back to be very entertaining, like the Mean Girls but for dudes. All the characters in this film hate T.I.’s character and I don’t blame them. Is this how he landed Ant-Man?

Ghost and Michael Ealy’s character Jake share a small rivalry as they’ve both been romantically involved with Zoe Saldana’s character, and it doesn’t add much to the story other than giving Michael Ealy’s character a small edge. I really wish they gave Ealy more to do. He’s a really good actor when he wants to be. Also, he and Paul Walker technically have a small 2 Fast 2 Furious reunion! A silver lining for me!

Hayden Christensen in his little fedora and suspenders should be the marker for men’s fashion in the 2010s. He looks like he listened to Arctic Monkeys’ A.M. before everyone else did and made sure to enlighten everyone who will listen to that fact. Alas, men are far too in their flop era to deserve such an image.

Apart from the sheer star power Idris Elba provides, there’s not much to this film. The crew’s interpersonal relationships are the strongest when they’re talking about T.I behind his back. I think having Matt Dillon chase after them AND have his own personal problems to deal with detracting from any time that could’ve been spent focused on the thieves. These men aren’t entirely emotionally stinted, but they compartmentalize until a loss is felt. Their animosity is veiled in professionalism. It’s just guys being dudes being fellas, am I right?

Triple 9 (2016) - Mare of Accenttown

No one does red dye packs better than Good Time (2017), but Triple 9 can surely rock the look. This has more than a couple of similarities with Triple Frontier, including but not limited to: the word Triple in the title, an Affleck brother with sexual harassment allegations, and a pair of siblings played by two actors that have known each other for at least fifteen years.

This is a heist thriller that embraces its moral ambiguity and (for the most part) doesn’t waste its star-studded cast. Triple 9 follows a group of bank robbers made up of corrupt cops and discharged Navy SEALs. Sounds familiar, no? Instead of Los Angeles, these guys are based in Atlanta. Our new crew of criminals consists of former SEALs Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus, my beloved), Russell’s ex-cop brother Gabe (Aaron Paul), and corrupt detectives Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.).

Like Takers, these thieves are also involved with the Russian mob—specifically the Jewish-Russian mob—that are led by none other than thee Mare of Easttown herself, Kate Winslet. Before we get into the fellas, I really, really, really want to talk about Kate Winslet’s accent work in this film. She is really giving Nicole Kidman in the Nine Perfect Strangers trailer a run for her money. She sounds more like Gal Gadot than Gal Gadot, who is also (unfortunately for me) in this film. Gadot and Casey Affleck are to Triple 9 what Ben Affleck is to Triple Frontier.

When Russell is murdered by the mob in an act of retaliation, the crew recruit Marcus’ new partner Chris (Casey Affleck) to execute one more job to even the score by carrying out a Triple 9 scenario. The titular Triple 9 is when an officer down call sends all the police to the location of the incident. Marcus nominates Chris to be the officer they kill to send the call. With Gabe still mourning his brother, he tries to warn Chris about the job and what the others are going to do to him, resulting in his own death and subsequently Marcus’. And the Triple 9 call still gets made anyway!

This probably has the most unhinged and volatile relationships out of all the films. Where the others are full of camaraderie and brotherhood of some kind, Triple 9 is what happens when greed sits in the front seat. Spoilers: they all end up killing each other. They appeared so solid in the beginning, only shaken by the threats ahead of them up until Aaron Paul decides to go rogue and steal more than he bargained for. It happens over and over until no one wins.

Rounding out their ensemble is Woody Harrelson as Jeffrey, Chris’ uncle who is the lead detective investigating the string of robberies committed by the crew. Woody Harrelson was much more engaging to watch than Matt Dillon in Takers; they occupy the same sort of archetype except Harrelson felt like more of a threat and was in the film for a less distracting amount of time.

I only saw Triple 9 in the first place for Norman Reedus, who, to quote Regina George, looks sexy with his hair pushed back. Sue me! He’s hot as hell! There is a reason Gaga put him in the Judas video as the titular Judas Iscariot! Daryl Dixon doesn’t shower and we should let him! He isn’t Jake Gyllenhaal! Will this be weird to look back on as I become more and more WalkingDeadpilled? Sure. Reedus has the ‘Guy-in-the-Chair’ role on the crew; calling the shots from a van ready to drive away whilst the others are pulling the actual heist. It’s a good look for him. A real good look. Sad they killed him off.

Where the plot gets convoluted, it’s saved by genuinely entertaining performances from some of the greatest working actors we have on TV right now. Ejiofor and Reedus share very little screentime together but their chemistry really plays up the old army buddy dynamics and it serves the group well. Reedus and Aaron Paul are quite the combination as well, I’d like to see a whole Merle-Daryl-like spin-off for those two. Clifton Collins Jr. is absolutely excellent; he gets some really good unhinged moments in this film. Anthony Mackie gets to show off a lot more moral depravity and we love to see it. It’s relentlessly violent, intense, and claustrophobic despite its moments of confusing, and boring reprieve.

Triple Frontier (2019) - I Think I’ve Seen This Film Before

I’ve had a lot to say about this film already, as per this newsletter’s first issue. Triple Frontier has all the aforementioned elements; DILFs, an Affleck, a pair of brothers, Adria Arjona getting a couple of lines, and a big cash jackpot. This film has a sexy edge; sexy people doing sexy things like climb mountains with duffle bags on their backs, argue with each other about how many duffle bags on their backs can fit in their helicopter, letting Garrett Hedlund swim a very shallow swamp in a tight black t-shirt.

Other than that, I think Triple Frontier lies in a moral grey that still has honour and friendship entrenched in it, probably because of how much smaller their ensemble is and how the script tackles each dynamic within the team.

It’s the softest out of all of these films, marking a shift at the end of a decade into a slicker, slightly more refined, commercially agreeable take on the genre. I still think it’s a bit of fun.

All four films present how these men have been failed by their country and the systems holding it together. They also show how they can exploit these failures for their own gain at great personal risk. They’re easy watches, the lads are easy on the eyes, and maybe just maybe they’re going to propel men out of their flop era. Or set them back a couple of years.

Thirsty? Go Sip Girl

On the eve of the final Gossip Girl reboot episode of the year (allegedly), I want to talk a little bit about how much fun I’ve had watching this show. I get excited whenever friends text me to ask if I’ve seen the latest episode. We discuss Luna and Monet’s greatest one-liners, how much we don’t care for Obie, how Rafa needs to be in JAIL for hurting Max, and of course, Aki.

Aki is just like me, a fruity filmbro who found kissing white guys to be a very confusing experience. Evan Mock has been getting a lot of attention for his portrayal of Aki, good and bad, and I just wanted to say that he’s pretty so he gets to do whatever he wants. The same goes for the rest of the cast. A revival of a 2000s teen drama should not be the subject of contention to demand Emmy-worthy performances out of every single actor. Were you entertained? Good, that’s the whole idea. Were you not entertained but annoyed at something wasting your time? Cool, me too, do whatever you want.

The show navigates character development, story arcs, and pop culture references with reckless abandon. And I’m enjoying every second of it. We’ve sped through so many changes between Julien and Zoya’s dynamic, now setting Monet up to be apart from the group and a focus on the groups’ relationships to their parents. I’m having oodles of fun. It’s like watching Riverdale but everything is nicer to look at.

Though I am still grappling with how financially responsible it is for the television industry at large to be throwing so much money at recycled intellectual property only to be publicly slandered every other week be it for quality or lack thereof, I know that the kind of things audiences respond to sends a message to studios and whoever is pulling the strings of the kind of stories we want to see. I know there are better stories, and I know that I know better, but there can still be room for some campy fun, right? For cultural references to be self-referential and devoid of any significance outside of the topical? For pretty people playing rich people to do stupid things for our entertainment? Enough, let’s not overintellectualize the show that made Tavi Gevinson play a teacher.

Damonwheeling

Bennifer has been spotted sporting a new accessory: Ben’s BFF, Matt Damon. Damon has been under fire recently for willingly admitting he has stopped using homophobic slurs because his daughter made him read a book. Why are white celebrities always doing this shit? Would you not take that shit to the grave? And why bring Marty Scorcese into this? Must you attempt to hold yourself accountable in a public forum where you’re going to be ripped to shreds?

Naturally, Damon’s publicist must be working overtime. There’s no better damage control in this era held so tightly in the chokehold of noughties nostalgia than, well, noughties nostalgia.

I Think He Did It But I Just Can’t Prove It

Finding the word ‘BRIDGERS’ in the anagram-crossword hell that was the Red (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) puzzle be like...

This week, Taylor Swift decided to choose violence and release yet another vault track puzzle for fans to decipher as part of her Red (Taylor’s Version) album rollout. I’m so excited for Red (Taylor’s Version). I’ve said many times that it’s the re-recording I’ve been most looking forward to. Red was such a seminal part of my middle school to high school experience that when I actually started to experience the situations and feelings described in songs like All Too Well or Treacherous, I immediately crumble into a tiny million little pieces. Recently, I’ve been listening to The Lucky One a lot because it reminds me of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Revisit that track if you’ve read the book, you’ll hear what I mean!

Taylor revealed that in addition to her re-recordings, her vault tracks will feature the likes of Chris Stapleton, Ed Sheeran, and Phoebe Bridgers. That’s right, the Pharbz are coming! Someone get Mare’s daughter Siobhan on the line! I am super, super excited for this collaboration, even if Phoebe’s airy voice will probably end up as backing vocals on their track anyway.

Now, songs like All Too Well are well-speculated to be about none other than yet another white celebrity that cannot keep his mouth shut, Jake Gyllenhaal. Mr. Music of Sack Lunch Bunch fame has been the talk of the town this week because he’s admitted to not showering often. Are we shocked? Are we surprised? Will we be hearing from Robert Pattinson soon? Only time will tell.

I just found it interesting that the news of Taylor’s latest Zodiac-level codebreaking coincided with the headlines about Jake Gyllenhaal’s hygiene. In the immortal words of that one guy on TikTok with the eyes in the forest: “There is no such thing as a coincidence.” I wouldn’t be surprised if another re-arranging of the crossword/anagrams could spell the phrases “JAKE SMELLS” or “GYLLENHAAL NO BATHTIME”. Perhaps these Vault tracks will shed more light on the subject. Perhaps three out of the new ten minutes of All Too Well will be about how much Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the scarf Taylor left at Maggie Gyllenhaal’s house hate Jake’s resistance to body wash.

That’s all for this week! Thanks again for sticking around for six whole months of this silly little newsletter! Here’s to six more, and here’s to you, reader.

All my love, Ari.