As the cast came together for Triple 9, it couldn’t help but feel this was going to be one hell of a movie. With the director of The Road and Lawless behind the camera, and a cast including Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Gal Gadot, Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Clifton Collins Jr. and Woody Harrelson, it certainly has plenty of pedigree.
However, the result is a rather overstuffed movie, which, as with many of its forebears, confuses grimness with authenticity, and people being miserable and unpleasant to one another with reality. Indeed, there are moments when objectively it’s about as realistic as Lord Of The Rings, but has such a determined po-face that it might convince you otherwise.
The film follows a bunch of corrupt cops who have a sideline in teaming up with criminals to stage heists to supplement their income. Things get very complicated for them with the emergence of the Russian mob connected Irina (Winslet), the sister of Michael’s (Ejiofor) baby momma. She demands they pull off what would normally be considered an impossible job due to the fact the cops will respond too quickly. They realise the only way to do it is to call in a 999 – Officer Down – to ensure the other cops are busy and they’ll have the time they need to pull it off.
That means finding a patsy to take fall, but having singled out straight-laced, trying-to-make-a-difference cop Chris (Affleck), things don’t go according to plan.
Triple 9 certainly presents you with a grim world, where everyone spends 95% of their time looking tense and angry, and where nearly every five minute someone has to get shot in the head (seriously, it’s a miracle there are any cast members left at the end as the movie is so found of bullets to the brains). If you like that sort of thing, you may enjoy it, but others will quickly realise that underneath the grimy exterior it’s all rather overblown and operatic, and the plot itself is underwhelming and at times pretty silly.
It spends little time on individual characterisation, except for major brushstrokes, which renders much of the stellar cast rather unnecessary. Indeed, with Kate Winslet’s wandering accent and Aaron Paul’s constant nervousness, even the actors appear to be confused at times as to exactly what they’re doing and how they’re going to pull it all together.
What Triple 9 does offer is some excellent action scenes, and some of the sequences are genuinely tense. However, it gets to the point where everyone is being so constantly nasty to one another, so many unpleasant and often gruesome things are happening, and all in a way such an insular way, that it starts to massively stretch credulity. I’m sure being an inner city American Cop is difficult and there are plenty of bad apples, but if things were really this overblown and miserable, no one would agree to do it.
Ultimately I couldn’t help feel this was a straight-to-DVD movie which they’d tried to raise to be something more. However, they couldn’t hide the fact it’s something pretty average wearing some posh clothes. It’s not dreadful, and I’m sure some people will love it, but its hyperbolic style while feigning grittiness and realism don’t do it any favours in the end.
Overall Verdict: A great cast and good director may try their best, but ultimately they’re trying to take something very average and make it something more, but not really succeeding.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac