After having not been to the cinema in almost 2 weeks, which is highly unusual, I had hopes that Triple 9 would make up for that, other than which I had no expectations for this film; with a solid cast (Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson) and an appealing trailer, it had potential. A group of police detectives who moonlight as professional thieves for the Russian mob, find themselves in front of an almost impossible job, to which the solution is to use a triple 9 as a distraction, in other words killing a fellow police officer to draw them all away from the heist. The group of actors here don’t disappoint, Winslet’s role as Russian mob wife/boss was a tentative choice but pays off, she manages to instil that icy cold stare and nonchalance towards violent consequences; the only problem being that although it may be intended to treat her as the bad guy, it’s kind of difficult not to like her as the performance is quite enjoyable and outside her normal choices. Ejiofor is surprisingly good as an American, for lack of a better word bad ass, an almost scary amount of anger coming through his character, very much straddling the line of good guy and bad guy but tipping towards the latter. Mackie and Harrelson are both reliable, this isn’t new territory for them and they seem to fit right in, even if the false teeth Harrelson is wearing don’t quite fit in his mouth. The more complicated story is Affleck, he fits into that world and gives a good performance but it feels at times as though he’s simply mumbling and playing it a little bit too cool but that could be blamed on a character choice.
Being directed by John Hillcoat who has a background of more isolated stories, most prominently The Road in 2009 and Lawless in 2012, skipping to a massive, star-studded police thriller in a big city is a slight leap and I’m not so sure that it pays off. Though the film aesthetically is good, its pace and story leave much to be desired; it starts off running with a bank job ending in a free-way car chase while our robbers are showered with red smoke but after that rather good introduction to the story, it heads in a downward direction for the rest of the film. The summary of the plot is less of a summary and more actually the entire film, though in the literal sense things are happening, there is one goal and one road and the time between the opening scene and the climax of events is quite a dull gap. A necessity for films of this type is to create that feeling of risk, being on the edge and that anything could happen at any time but it just doesn’t quite get there, which could in part be attributed to the lack of empathy that’s created for the characters, making it difficult to be invested in what happens to them.
Put all that together and you get a film that’s well acted but terribly let down by it’s simplistic story that struggles to captivate and sadly does not live up to the flare shown in the trailer, which was fairly predictable. This should have been a heavy hitter, dark and mysterious but that’s not what we get.