The cast of “Triple 9” includes Oscar winner Kate Winslet, Academy Award nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck and Woodey Harrelson, Golden Globe Nominee Aaron Paul and Independent Spirit Award nominee Anthony Mackie.
Simply put, this film was loaded with talent, and unfortunately it squanders it. The film follows a group of criminals who also happen to be corrupt police officers in Atlanta. The gang, which includes Michael (Ejiofor) and Marcus (Mackie) seem like they want to get out of the lifestyle they’ve fallen into, yet because they’re on the hook for the Russian mafia, led by Irina Vlaslov (Winslet), they’re forced into more heists.
Meanwhile Detective Jeffrey Allen (Harrelson) is investigating the recent heists and trying to solve who on the police force may be crooked.
There are two glaring, interconnected flaws in “Triple 9,” the execution of the story and the development of the characters. In terms of storytelling, “Triple 9” seems to meander through familiar crime-drama tropes without creating much depth or substance. By the end, “Triple 9” comes across as a forgettable crime tale without much to say.
This directly correlates with the characters and how they are drawn out over the picture. The movie suffers the problem of having too many characters without enough time to properly dive deep into who they are.
It’s shown in a few brief moments that Harrelson’s character has a drinking problem, but it isn’t explored and Mackie appears to have been a corrupt cop for years, but his background isn’t explained.
Ejiofor’s character does have a son in the movie which does explain some of his drive, but the person he’s portraying has no redeeming qualities. It leads to a complete lack of sympathy for his character’s situation with his son despite the desperation portrayed.
In terms of characters, though, the handling of Affleck’s was probably the worst. Affleck’s character, a young detective who was just transferred to the Atlanta unit is introduced far too late in the picture. The character could have worked if the movie would have made him a focal point, similar to Ethan Hawke’s character in “Training Day,” but most of the time Affleck’s character seems to be sidelined.
“Triple 9” unfortunately pulled off a rare occurrence, too, by including a poor performance from Winslet. The actress who was just nominated for an Oscar for her work in “Steve Jobs” does nothing in “Triple 9” but put on a bad accent and play a typical villain.
A single saving grace in “Triple 9,” was the fact that Director John Hillcoat and his crew were able to make the film look pretty good. Despite my other complaints, the movie is well shot, it captures a lot of the grit from the city and the lighting leads to some great atmosphere.
Additionally, there are some well made action scenes, for example, one that took place as a group of police officers huddled behind a bullet-proof shield as they advanced through an apartment complex.
Because the film is well crafted and has plenty of star power, “Triple 9” can certainly hold an audience’s attention, but it lacks the substance that could have made it a memorable drama. 2 out of 5.