Triple 9 Movie Review
The solution to our nation’s crime problems isn’t police cameras or border walls or Donald Trump. It’s much simpler than that: let bad people kill other bad people, and in the end, it will all work out for the better. So it goes in Triple 9, a dark, gritty and tense action-thriller that plays out like Heat meets Ten Little Indians, only not quite as good or intelligent.
Directed by John Hillcoat (who made the sort-of overlooked Lawless, the overlooked The Road and the overlooked The Proposition) and written by first-time screenwriter Matt Cook, Triple 9 features a cast so impressively talented you’d swear you were in Cannes. A very dark, depressing, Atlanta-esque version of Cannes.
Kate Winslet plays the blond-haired, nearly unrecognizable villain Irina Vlaslov in a way that just makes it so damned easy to want her to die, Chiwetel “I still can’t pronounce your name and never will be able to” Ejiofor sizzles as a bad guy who is also sort of a protagonist, Casey Affleck does what Casey Affleck does--by delivering yet another solid better-than-Ben performance--and Woody Harrelson chomps up scenery left and right by playing a drug-fueled genius of a cop who, high or not, can see the pieces of the puzzle that Hillcoat and Cook throw at the audience, even if he can’t quite comprehend them.
Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Teresa Palmer and Gal “Oh shit that’s Wonder Woman!” Gadot also have prominent roles, some of which are better than others.
Triple 9 is a fun movie to watch if you’re prepared for a good, old-school, R-rated crime thriller where action scenes pulse with vibrancy and bad shit happens to bad people. The action scenes aren’t amazing--none rival those found in Michael Mann’s Heat, a movie to which this film clearly aspired to be--but they are solidly tense. Hillcoat does a great job of maintaining intensity from start to finish; the movie always exudes the sense that things are about to go sideways. And the story, while not without its holes, serves as a good enough foundation.
Still, Triple 9 is not a great movie. Some of the characters are woefully underdeveloped, and you get the sense that chunks of the story were either left on the editing room floor or removed long before filming commenced for the sake of pace. There are so many characters and so many intertwined subplots that, when everything shakes out, you’re left wondering why certain people (like Wonder Woman) were even in the movie, disappointed that others never even met onscreen, or how everything got wrapped up so cleanly. Triple 9 is definitely a movie that relies on coincidences, and while it’s not tremendously bothersome, some people will no doubt walk away annoyed at how convenient certain plot points turn out to be.
Triple 9 isn’t as smart as it thinks or wants to be, but the movie delivers where it matters.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.