Written by: Matt Cook
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson & Kate Winslet
Running time: 115 minutes
A group of misfits consisting of corrupt cops and criminals plan the murder of a police officer in order to carry out their biggest heist yet.
The Case File
Corrupt cops, bank robberies and plenty of tattooed Hispanic people – add to that one strong character hoping to win a Samaritan of the year award. That formula gives us almost every crime drama we’ve seen of late and Triple 9 is as inane as they get.
Michael Belmont(Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an ex-special forces agent who with army comrade Russell (Norman Reedus), Russell’s ex-cop brother Gabe(Aaron Paul), along with two serving cops, Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (Clifton Collins Jr.), have seemingly taken up bank robberies as a hobby. Only a few scenes later do we realize that the jobs are being pulled at the behest of Russian/Israeli mobstress Irina(Kate Winslet), whose sister Elena(Gal Gadot) is Michael’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son.
It all opens with a rather colorful, yet engaging scene filled with muscular intensity. The gang are out to rob a bank and things go almost perfectly until the gas bomb in one of the boxes they stole explodes. This leaves them vulnerable on a freeway in addition to making them look like members from the Tomatina festival. After barely escaping, Irina coerces them into one more job – a final one which will ensure the release of Michael’s son, who is held captive by Irina.
This last job involves breaking into a secure Homeland Security facility and stealing certain documents which will ensure the release of Irina’s mob boss husband, locked up in a Russian prison. Enter Chris Allen(Casey Affleck) – new cop on the block who is partner to Marcus, and also happens to be the nephew of Jeffrey Allen(Woody Harrelson). Jeffrey is the detective in-charge of hunting this gang. The gang target Chris for a Triple 9 – which is cop code for when an officer is down. This would ideally provide them with the perfect diversion. But of course, not everything goes as planned in a story filled with mundane inevitability, cheap twists and treachery.
Director John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Road) fills the movie with visually exciting sequences – unlike everything else in the film. The Australian director is known to bring out the best in generic plots, but his cinematic discipline disappears trying to make the best out of what was a potential masterpiece of a story. The film screams out clichéd in its entirety.
First timer Matt Cook delivers a pulsating screenplay but none of the characters attract you. Almost every scene leaves you confused whether to root for the gang, or wish death upon them. The casting keeps the audience engaged, but other than every sequence peaks your curiosity and leaves you disappointed. Even the frontline hero, a detective cop named Chris seems weirdly disconnected to the rest of movie.
The DOP deserves applause for treating us with the right amount of grit and dirt from the streets of Atlanta. The score slots in perfectly as well. But above these positives, the editing failed them miserably.
The Precinct Staff
The stellar names on the poster are reason enough to push yourself to the cinemas for this one. Reading them leaves with a sense of excitement but the result is bewildering mash up. The strongest performance has to be that of Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave, The Martian). He is out to prove his versatility and is doing a brilliant job at that. After playing an Indian scientist in The Martian, it was remarkable to see him pull off this role.
Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games, True Detective) has a character tailor made for him. The only character which would be more apt for him would be himself in a biopic. Anthony Mackie (The Avengers, Ant-Man) brings out the best in a character which was poorly written. Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Interstellar) delivers a mediocre performance as a bad-ass cop who was intended to be a victim.
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Need For Speed) ended up playing himself in a different costume. Nothing spectacular from Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead, The Boondock Saints) either – mostly because of screen time. The predominant baddie is Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim, Star Trek), whose character was again a victim to bad writing.
Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road) is so gorgeous, it’s hard to focus on her dialogues. She nailed the whole Mob Goddess thing perfectly, barring the slip up in accent occasionally. The puzzle in casting was Gal Gadot (Fast Five, Knight & Day). It was highly unnecessary, but effective nevertheless.
All in all
Triple 9 is a story of the overlap between good and evil. It is as formulaic and predictable as it gets. The scenes are charged with energy and always contain a dark cloud which never seems to lift. In all fairness, the casting is the biggest plus point, and that coupled with a concrete story is decidedly promising. But, the end result is nothing more than a poor man’s Reservoir Dogs.
Watch it if you’re:
In the mood for a gloomy crime drama OR love the cast.
B-Change Rating: 6.5/10
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