John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 tells the story of a group of corrupt cops, in association with the local Russian Jewish mob led by Irina Vlaslov (an almost unrecognizable Kate Winslet), that plan to kill one unsuspecting cop to cover for a heist. The plan calls for a 999 (officer down) or Triple 9 while almost the entire force converges on their fallen officer, it will leave the bad guys alone long enough to pull off the heist and get away. This sounds like a great premise for a film, and Triple 9 does have its moments of grittiness, but it is weighted down with subplots, underdeveloped characters, to the point that it ends up being a drag.
The cast is incredible, to say the least with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike, leader of the corrupt cops which are made up of Marcus (Anthony Mackie), Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.), Russell Welch (Norman Reedus) and an ex-cop and Russell’s brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul). Gabe is now a junkie after he was dismissed from the force for a questionable shooting, but the gang keeps him around because of his relationship with Russell and they need another man. Mike’s relationship with Irina is that he was married to her sister, Elena (Gal Gadot) and have a child named Felix. Casey Affleck (who is seriously physically bulked up for this role) is Chris Allen, a transfer from FIN (which, as far as my research can conclude is a department that deals with financial crimes; mostly white collar) as is publicly mocked by his new fellow officers who consider that area to be pretty safe as opposed to being a street cop. Regardless, Chris is a good cop and is no dummy but he suspects there is something amiss but cannot put his finger on it. Chris has one friend, his brother, who is a homicide detective, Jeffery (Woody Harrelson). With all of the star power in this film, not one really stands out as special. They do what is required, but that is about it.
Matt Cook’s script has some juice to it, but then he has characters behave in such a manner that did not make sense, at all. I won’t divulge them here with the exception of one, for those who still want to see this film. Jeffery (Harrelson) spends a good part of the film smoking dope, but he does while sitting in a police car questioning a suspect AND AT THE STATION but none of his fellow officers say anything to him. How does he get away with that? Only in a movie, that’s how. That, more than likely, would NEVER happen. There are a few other scenes that did not make sense and it takes away from the credibility of the plot, which really does a good job of sounding and looking authentic about cops and their tactics. It wants us to accept the premise but I just did not believe these characters would behave the way they do in this film.
Director Hillcoat who has done quite well with his last three films, The Proposition, a western with Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone, the post apocalyptic drama, The Road with Viggo Mortensen and Lawless also with Guy Pearce, Shia LeBeouf and Tom Hardy, a prohibition gangster drama based on the true story of the bootlegging Bondurant family. All three films had richly developed characters and plots. Triple 9 starts out well enough, but introduces characters that are never developed but are treated as essential to the plot. Gal Gadot and Teresa Palmer (playing Chris’s wife and mother to their son) has some brief moments of screen time but are not given anything to do, really, except look terrific and they do that just fine. Even Kate Winslet does not have that much to do but is serviceable to the plot but these are three characters that could have been more developed and would have enhanced the story. The story, for all of its lofty intentions, is a convoluted mess.
The film focuses mostly on Mike as he navigates his way to try and get his son, Felix, back from Elena, pulling off one job after another trying to break free from Irina and her crime syndicate clutches. He and his band of corrupt cops cook up the Triple 9 and Chris is to be the victim. Things go wrong, but the film trips itself up with convoluted plot turns, unconvincing character behavior, one too many double crosses and pacing that suffers, as a result. Some of the action is decent, the acting is sufficient and the score by Bobby Krlic, Atticus and Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne is tremendous. I really wanted to like Triple 9 more than I did but there is too much going on here, and not much of it seems to gel together in a coherent manner. It is a good looking and technologically efficient film, but not much else. Look for the scene in which there is a road sign that reads “Zombies Ahead”, which is a reference to Norman Reedus and his hit show The Walking Dead, also shot in Atlanta where most of Triple 9 was shot. Now, THAT was funny.
Triple 9- **3/4 out of 5
Triple 9- Rated R for language, nudity, and graphic violence
Triple 9- Run Time is 120 minutes
Triple 9 is now available on DVD and On Demand