Director: John Hillcoat.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet.
Let me get this out of the way quickly: there is no reason for you to watch it. Triple 9 is best described as a movie about cops and/or robbers. Every interesting thing in it has been done better elsewhere. Watch Training Day for a better example of the naive good cop/corrupt experienced partner dynamic, or Sicario for Mexican gang warfare. As a crooked cop caper it feels like a discount version of The Departed, or maybe a two-bit The Town since it also stars an Affleck brother. The bank robbery scenes and the car chases in Triple 9 are all right, but they are not as good as Point Break (the Keanu version).
If my description sounds like a pastiche of movie references it’s because that’s how Triple 9 feels to watch – some good ideas lifted from other sources but executed poorly, or at best, uninterestingly. The sound design was textbook: drums and heartbeats in tense scenes, low trumpets in chase scenes. The cinematography also comes across as something out of a film student’s guide of How To Create Tension For Dummies. Like David Stratton, I hate shaky-cam, and for me it didn’t create tension so much as a tension headache. The extreme close up is favoured above nearly all other shots and when combined with the possibility (nay, probability) of extreme violence occurring at any second, the result is certainly uncomfortable, but more physically than mentally.
I really wanted to like this movie. The trailer was very good. Kate Winslet decked out in mafia wife get-up was super intriguing, and the presence of Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years A Slave), Norman Reedus (Daryl on The Walking Dead), Aaron Paul (Jesse in Breaking Bad), and Woody Harrelson promised great things. Anthony Mackie is fine; handsome, a little boring, but fine. Woody is great, and to be fair the others seem to do their best with what they have been given, except for Casey Affleck who has all the charisma and screen presence of vanilla yoghurt.
Winslet has an amazing wardrobe but does a distractingly bad Russian accent and ultimately comes off as some kind of pantomime Disney villainess. All the characters are drawn a bit half-heartedly and seem more like brief outlines whose further character development never eventuates. Action is split too evenly between characters making it unclear who is important, what is important, and why we should care since not enough time is devoted to any single thing for long enough.
I can’t tell you what happens in the movie without letting off some massive spoilers, so I won’t go into detail with what they do, but I can say their motivations are very unconvincing. The plot often hinges on character actions which are so inconsistent that they seem like logical fallacies. Why would she do that? Isn’t that counter-intuitive to her interests? But wasn’t he in the other place before? Why didn’t he do it then? And so on, and so forth. This makes the ending very unsatisfying, and ultimately colours your reception of the whole film. It was such a promising concept with such a promising cast, and while it may have been a perfectly acceptable B movie in its own right it is disappointing and really quite annoying that an opportunity to make such a great film was wasted. You know how sometimes you really want some ice cream, but you don’t want to go nuts on the sugar so you have a glass of milk instead? It’s like that. Sure, milk is fine. I like milk. But you could have had ice cream instead.
Words by Yvonne Buresch.