You can sense a riveting, well-textured quality in J.C. Chandor‘s Triple Frontier (Netflix). And an atmosphere of grit and sweat and heavy tropical air. A “rob the drug lords” plot may suggest the realm of an elevated programmer, but it feels like the first really exciting ride of 2019.

J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost, A Most Violent Year) is a first-rate director, and the Mark Boal script, which dates back to ’09, is tense and tightly constructed., or so I recall. Chandor has a co-writing credit. Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund. I want to see this in a theatre. It feels formidable.

Eight years ago Tom Hanks signed to do an earlier version of Triple Frontier under director Kathryn Bigelow. Johnny Depp was also attached or at least interested. There was talk at the time of changing the title to Sleeping Dogs. In late ’12 it was reported that Bigelow and Boal had put the project aside. Hanks would have played Affleck’s role.

From an HE piece titled “Hanks, Drugs, Dogs,” posted on 10.6.10:

Wells: That’s cool about Tom Hanks talking to you guys about starring in Sleeping Dogs. Can you tell me non-attrib who or what Hanks will play? He’s…what, some kind of law enforcement guy? Can you give me the rundown?

Sleeping Dogs guy: I can’t right now, but when I can share I’ll get back to you.

Wells: Not even a generic boilerplate description? Does he play a good guy or a bad guy?

Sleeping Dogs guy: I’m sorry, but you know how this goes. I just can’t say anything.

Wells: I’m going to assume he’s not playing a drug kingpin with a Latin accent and a twirly moustache. I’m going to assume that he plays ‘Tom Hanks,’ just like he does in every other film.

Sleeping Dogs guy: You can assume what you want, but I’m not going to say what you want me to say.

Wells: “Go ahead, try and make me say ‘Niagara Falls!’

Sleeping Dogs guy: “Slooooowly I crept, step by step, inch by inch…”

Wells: “Who came up with the title Sleeping Dogs?”

Sleeping Dogs guy: “Why, whadaya mean?”

Wells: “Nothing. I mean, I like the title. I do. It’s a little bit better than Triple Frontier. Well, somewhat. I’m just remembering a story from the late ’70s about Karel Reicz‘s Who’ll Stop The Rain.”

Sleeping Dogs guy: “Yeah?”

Wells: “Which was originally called Dog Soldiers, based on the Robert Stone novel, and the reason they changed the title, I read, is that they did a marketing survey and women, they found out, don’t like titles with the word ‘dog’ in it. They think the word suggests something smelly and male and drooling with saliva.”

Sleeping Dogs guy: “But this is a common expression, obviously == ‘Let sleeping dogs lie.'”

Wells: “Cool with me, whatever. I’m just saying you can’t mess with women when it comes to movie marketing. If they don’t want to see something, you can’t stop them.”