Crime thriller delivers cool characters, but light on story save for some basic cops n’ robbers action
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul with Gal Gadot and Blake McLennan
DIRECTOR: John Hillcoat
60 SECOND PLOT SUMMARY (OR AS CLOSE TO THAT TIME AS ONE CAN MAKE IT): Triple 9 stars Casey Affleck as Chris Allen, a rookie detective with the Atlanta Police Department where his uncle Jeffrey (Woody Harrelson) is a top cop (his position is never fully reveal but let say he’s a chief). Now fully in the police fold, Chris finds himself in a partnership with Marcus (Anthony Mackie), who would rather not work with a rookie on his beat in the urban, gang-infested streets of Hotlanta. However, Marcus realizes that his new partner might just be the perfect person to help him out – not with a case, but with something much more sinister.
You see, Marcus – like Rodriguez (Clifton Collins, Jr.), Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul), his brother Russell (Norman Reedus) and his best friend/fellow former military soldier Michael Atwell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) – is a actually a criminal. Yes, like homicide detective Rodriguez (and formerly Welch), Marcus wears a badge, but is a member of a gang that recently pulled off one of the biggest bank heists in the city’s history. Why? To retrieve information from a safety deposit box for Irina Vslalov (Kate Winslet), wife of a currently incarcerated Russian mob boss who has taken over in her husband’s place. Irina is also the sister of Elena (Gal Gadot), who just so happens to be the mother of Michael’s son Felix. (And now you know why Michael is doing jobs for Irina.)
However, just when Michael thinks he and his boys are out, Irina pulls a bait-and-switch by informing him he has to do one more job so that she can get the information she needs to spring her husband from prison … Unless he never wants to see Felix again and risk them all be mob targets, that is. To pull it off, Michael and his crew realizes there’s only way to create a big enough distraction to draw away the police so they can do the crime: A “triple nine,” or a call to an officer down at the scene of a shooting.
And guess what rookie detective seems like the perfect candidate to suffer the fate of Michael and company’s wrath?
SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? Triple 9 is a movie that features some really great performances … In a movie that in and of itself is solid but not that memorable overall. Instead of taking the time to fully develop the story through one or perhaps two characters’ eyes, Triple 9 that tries to cram in too many characters in one setting, which kind of wastes the performances of Harrelson, Ejiofor and Affleck, which are excellent.
While Affleck’s is the character you are seemingly supposed to care most about on the surface, you are given so little about his background and motivations (other than being a good cop) that he has to rely on his sheer quiet intensity to carry you through. We’re not certain why he is a new member of the Atlanta PD, where he came from (apparently he may have been in the military at one point) and the nature of he and his uncle’s relationship and how it led to this situation. Likewise, Harrelson’s character gets to say a lot of cool lines (which fortunately don’t come off as corny at all), but his character does so much foreshadowing that a lot of conflicts that could have been cool to watch play out unfortunately come off predictably or at the very least, expected. While Affleck’s low-key but steady intensity keeps him compelling, it would be nice for him to have more to work with than a very cool demeanor.
Ejiofor’s character is the one that sadly suffers the most because of this, as his is by far the most interesting character in the mix. But instead his character – who IS the most well-developed of the three mentioned – is given a bit of a mixed presentation to the audience and becomes the most sympathetic one in the entire film. But instead of really going for it, director John Hillcoat seemingly instead chooses to boil it down to a rather bland power struggle between he and Winslet’s character. Sure, there is a payoff, but it’s not as great as it could have been potentially.
Fortunately, these things are not enough to derail the film, which does deliver entertaining, traditional good guys and bad guys style action sequences with enough flavor to keep you interested even if you always seem to be one step ahead of its characters in terms of what’s happening. The performances of Affleck, Ejiofor and Harrelson are compelling enough you are able to stay engaged and the well executed heist and gun battles scenes deliver much needed shots of adrenaline when necessary. It’s not spectacular, it doesn’t have a Training Day style character or intensity that stands out, but it’s solid enough.
Whether or not you find it solid enough, however, remains to be seen – but chances are good if you choose to see it, you’ll be satisfied with your choice.