To make a successful crime thriller, you need a certain amount of ingredients to ensure its cinematic power. Said ingredients include a gifted director, a strong cast, and most importantly, a story that is gripping, full of twists, and will constantly keep you guessing. Triple 9 attempts to be one such film and while its story feels familiar, its direction and ensemble cast make it shine here and there. Code for “officer down”, 999 is obviously a very serious call that police dread every time they go to work. This film blurs the line between cop and criminal and with gritty action and some occasionally effective acting, it is a cinematic thrill ride that will suck you in occasionally and dazzle you with some really tense shoot ‘em up sequences. Sadly these scenes don’t make up for a rather dull actioner.
Opening with a realistic bank robbery, Triple 9 focuses on a group of dirty cops who work for the Russian mafia (led by a refreshingly non-typecast Kate Winslet). One of the cops, Marcus Atwood (Anthony Mackie), is soon teamed up with honest and incorruptible Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) and together they must work together (and eventually against one another). Soon bullets start to fly, cars blow up, and trust gets destroyed. The rest of the cast makes for an entertaining film and includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aaron Paul, a fantastic Woody Harrelson (as usual), Clifton Collins, Jr., Gal Gadot, and an utterly wasted Norman Reedus. This cast is the film’s saving grace and while it is pretty impressive, it sadly cannot save this movie from being just slightly above average.
Australian director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) has a way with the camera and his keen eye serves this thriller very well. He plus editor Dylan Tichenor (Zero Dark Thirty, There Will Be Blood) have made some lovely music here with abrupt cuts that help guide the noir-like story and contribute to the utterly dark tone. The sound editing is also worth mentioning especially when the bullets whiz by in certain scenes. With the technical aspects working well and intermingling, Triple 9 is a film that works but won’t be nominated for any awards any time soon. It is a movie that will not break any box office records or usher in sequels or merchandise. It is a serviceable film that is a somewhat worthy entry in Hillcoat’s admirable filmography.
The psychology of the dirty cop is presented fairly well here but not nearly as good as, say, Serpico or L.A. Confidential. Newcomer screenwriter Matt Cook has fashioned a lackluster script that offers nothing new in the world of crime thrillers and his by the numbers and unimpressive work is a a detriment to the film. Having said that, the cast does their very best to make the most of it and drag the dialogue out of sheer mediocrity. Triple 9 is a loud, somewhat stylish, and fairly well-acted action yarn that will entertain and serve as a fairly decent treat to the senses. If anything else, this is one of the better casts to grace the screen in quite some time and for that reason, if not for that reason alone, Triple 9 should spark some curiosity from potential audiences.