John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 boasts an all star cast playing gangsters and corrupt cops who plan to murder a police officer so that they can pull off a massive heist.
The cast is a very impressive collection of actors who all play their parts believable. Chiwetel Ejiofor has an incredible presence and manages to be very memorable here despite how underused he was. It’s worth noting that I haven’t seen him play a character like this before but this performance proves how versatile he is as an actor. Similarly I’ve never seen Anthony Mackie play a character with such dubious morals before but he’s really believable here.
Kate Winslet is vastly underused but is always impressive when she does appear. There really isn’t much to her character but performance wise she does an excellent job.
Woody Harrelson really steals the show in this film for me. He has all the best lines and delivers them with a sharp and confident wit. He suffers from a lack of focus and screen time but he brings a lot to this.
Casey Affleck is similarly underused despite being essentially the subject of the film. He is very likable when he does appear but he disappears for long stretches of the film until becoming important towards the end.
There’s a theme emerging here. Most of the cast were excellent but they were really badly underused. A big problem was the lack of focus on a specific character which made the story feel very muddled. It was nearly impossible to become invested in anyone in the film or anything that was going on.
The story isn’t very well told with long stretches of very little happening. Lots of the running time was filled with what was supposed to be tense subtext laden dialogue that offers hints at what was really going on in a given character’s head but the lack of development of any of them made this feel flat.
In a lot of ways it reminds me of last year’s Sicario as the framework is very similar. That film was also about corruption and how morality can be stretched in extreme situations but this film is nowhere near as sophisticated as Sicario as it fails to find something concrete to focus on to tell the story.
When the film does decide to be about something it does a really good job. Some of the dialogue exchanges are really tense and interesting as they show the talent of the actors involved. I like the idea of a group of corrupt cops being blackmailed by gangsters to carry out a heist. I would have liked to see more development of the reasons for this and how those involved really felt about the situation.
The title of the film comes from the code among police that means one of their own has been killed. In this context it is used as a diversion tactic to create an opportunity to perform the heist. It’s an interesting idea and the fact that police officers are in on the plan gives it even more potential. The film fails to bring across the level of discomfort felt by the officers involved. A major theme could have been the lines that corrupt cops won’t cross but it gets lost in the rest of the needlessly convoluted narrative.
There are a handful of action sequences that are expertly directed to be tense and atmospheric with a great score that ups the tension appropriately. A lot of effort went into making those involved look like a well oiled machine and the locations look uncomfortably claustrophobic with ominous dim lighting.
This film was very problematic as it had the makings of something great but there are far too many moving parts to make for a coherent story. In many ways it reminded me of last year’s Sicario but lacked the sophistication necessary to match the quality of that film. The biggest issue was the lack of clear character development and a story that felt like it meandered far too much to be effective.
• the excellent performances from a stellar cast
• some tense and well directed action sequences
• the cast being woefully underused
• a convoluted story that isn’t developed properly and lacks focus
• the poor pacing creating long stretches with very little happening