“Triple 9” is an adrenaline rush from start to ten minutes from the finish! That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that this cop procedural, heist film with an all-star cast fell short of a homerun.
The film starts off at the beginning of a heist by a five man crew comprised of cops and former military: Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie), Russell Welch (Norman Reedus), Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul), and Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.). By all means, it’s not a new way of kicking off a film, but the performances of the cast draw you in to their situation. As things take an unexpected turn, they have to adapt, showing their skills and technical precision.
We soon learn that Atwood has ties to the Russian mob in the form of his son’s mother Elena (Gal Gadot). Elena’s sister, Irina (Kate Winslet), runs the mob outfit while her husband is in prison. Irina has ice in her veins. She lures Atwood in for one more heist by hurting someone close to him and insinuating it could happen to his son. Atwood feels that the only way to pull off the heist is to create a 999, cop code for “officer down”, which will draw out all the cops in the city in response. Enter Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), Belmont’s new partner, and just the mark they need.
The film has a stellar cast, who truly do great work with the script they were provided. Director John Hillcoat immerses the viewer in the streets of Atlanta and creates a steady tension and sense of urgency throughout the film. The settings are gritty, the gang members don’t seem to be comprised of actors, and that realism makes the film that much more suspenseful.
“Triple 9” suffers from two big issues: the plot is overly complicated, and the film has no likeable characters except for Affleck’s Allen. It’s like watching three card monte; there are so many storylines to follow that if you check a text message in the midst of the film you may be confused as to what’s going on. Everyone is flawed and dirty accept Allen. Which makes it hard to root for any of the main characters.
It’s a shame that all the drama and tension leads up to an unsatisfying ending. It feels as though writer Matt Cook had to finish the film under deadline and decided to try to wrap things up quickly and cut off loose ends. But in a film where everyone’s dirty, a nicely tied ribbon on the end just doesn’t make sense or do the film and its cast justice.