Director: John Hillcoat
Starring: Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus, Gia Gadot
Written by: Matt Cook
Running Time: 115 mins
Release date: 19th February 2016
Triple 9 has a lot going for it. A director who can certainly handle genre cinema. A cast of top-notch character actors and a trailer that is by no means tempting. Yet when you spend your time with this film, you soon realise that what you are watching isn’t a taut and gripping heist thriller but a waste of talent with a very generic and formulaic film.
A group of crooked cops and former soldiers are being blackmailed by the Russian mafia to commit robberies. After their most recent job left them covered in red paint, they hope that this will be the last one. However, mob boss Irina Viaslov has other plans, wanting them to attempt an almost impossible job. The only way they can do this without the police being on their case is to cause a triple-9: shooting of a police officer.
The basic premise is interesting and one that hasn’t been tackled before, asking the question: would you be willing to sacrifice a fellow officer in order for you to commit a crime. However, director John Hillcoat doesn’t seem to be that interesting in the darker premise, instead wanting to give the audience another Heat. The only problem is that with Michael Mann’s superb heist thriller, we had characters that were in-depth and interesting. Matt Cook’s script is wafer thin, with far too much happening and far too many protagonists to really care about any of them.
So we get a couple of impressive set pieces, the most decent of them being the opening robbery, with the gang fleeing the crime while battling with red smoke interfering with their getaway. It sets the film up nicely and you hope to sit back and enjoy plenty of double-crossing and triple crossing, like you would usually find in a genre movie like this. Instead we get a whole succession of subplots about each character that becomes overcrowded and overbearing, leaving you feeling cold and indifferent to the outcome.
There is an uneasy feeling of aggression throughout that leaves a bad taste. Each of the gang having their own agendas that frankly leaves you not caring one bit about what happens to them. Even fresh-faced, family cop Chris Allen, who becomes the interest of the gang, doesn’t bring anything real to the table. Everything feels slightly artificial.
Which leads us to the performances. Reliable Chiwetel Ejiofor is given nothing to really get his teeth into, while Casey Affleck tries to play the nice guy but along with the other characters, it felt empty. Even Kate Winslet, almost unrecognisable as the Russian mob boss, just seemed odd and didn’t quite work. The only character that you longed to see more of was the over-the-top, scene chewing Woody Harrelson as cop with issues yet was always on the right side of the law.
Triple 9 was ultimately a huge disappointment that left you feeling completely disinterested in anything that was happening. It lacked any tension or suspense, replacing thrills with random acts of violence. It’s a film that could have been one of the crackers of the year. Instead it is instantly forgettable.