Review: Triple 9 (2016)

Director: John Hillcoat | 116 minutes | action, crime, drama, thriller | Actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Michael Kenneth Williams, Clifton Collins Jr., Michelle Ang, Terence Rosemore, Terri Abney, Alexander Babara, Anthony Belevtsov, Luis Da Ailva Jr., Ian Casselberry, E. Roger Mitchell

Corruption in the police ranks: it remains a rewarding subject for crime films. That is not surprising, because the subject yields a lot of classics. ‘Serpico’ (1973), ‘The Untouchables’ (1987), ‘LA Confidential’ (1997), ‘The Departed’ (2006), every decade has its favorites. With ‘Triple 9’, director John Hillcoat, based on an original idea by first-time screenwriter Matt Cook, adds a new offshoot. ‘Triple 9’ will not be a classic in the genre, although that is not due to the top cast that participated in the film.

Triple 9 is set in Atlanta. Criminals Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and brothers Russel and Gabe Welch (Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul) team up with two corrupt agents, Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie). In a promising opening scene, they rob a bank where they empty a safe. Michael’s sister-in-law Irina (Kate Winslet) has deviously persuaded him to do this job for her, because with the contents of the box her husband, a Russian mob boss, can be released. But after this deal, things are not over yet. There is one more – seemingly impossible – job to be done. And that’s where the title is explained …

The cast-iron cast betrays John Hillcoat’s aspirations. A number of them have been cast in a role that you do not immediately expect from them. Not only Kate Winslet, as a ruthless Russian mafia lady, is surprising, we also don’t often see Chiwetel Ejiofor as a bad guy and it is refreshing to see Casey Affleck again in a sympathetic role. The disadvantage of the long list of top actors is also the disadvantage of the film: there are too many characters, so that a. The characters do not reach any depth, apart from the clichéd characteristics and b. the available acting talent is not fully utilized because there is simply too little time. The messy scenario adds even more and the cast is unable to breathe life into the story. There is no emotional connection.

The images are raw and sometimes extremely violent, and much takes place in the dark, lit with red lights. It creates an oppressive atmosphere at times, but wherever you are, while watching this movie, it won’t be biting your nails on the edge of your seat. ‘Triple 9’ does not know how to keep the viewer’s attention continuously. Mediocre at best. A film that seems to be crying out for a director’s cut.

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